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In the process of looking through a box of papers (I was trying to fond something to use in one of my classes), I ran across an article by Wayne Mack called “The Bible’s Answer to the Question: “What is A Christian?”

In short, here is his answer:

  • The Bible declares that a Christian is a person who has been radically changed by the power of God.
  • The Bible declares that a Christian is a person who has become and is becoming increasingly aware of his own unworthiness in the sight of God.
  • The Bible declares that a Christian is a person who believes that Jesus Christ is God manifested in the flesh and the only Savior and substitute of sinners.
  • The Bible declares that a Christian is a person who has repented of his sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mack’s use of Scripture in answering the question is especially important. If we were to ask ten people “What is a Christian?”, we’d most likely get five or six different answers, he says. The only answer that ultimately matters is God’s, and we find it in His Word.

So, using the Bible’s definition, are you a Christian?

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“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).

Christians suffer – we know it from God’s Word and we know it because we’ve experienced it. As Peter says, we shouldn’t be surprised, amazed, or shocked by it. But the question inevitably arises as to why we suffer, experience pain, and are even persecuted.

In His Word – the Bible – God has answers, as you might expect. Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists provides twenty-five reasons Christians suffer.

  1. To produce the fruit of patience (Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36)
  2. To produce the fruit of joy (Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6)
  3. To produce the fruit of maturity (Eccl. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10)
  4. To produce the fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11)
  5. To silence the devil (Job 1:9, 10, 20-22)
  6. To teach us (Ps. 119:67, 71)
  7. To purify our lives (Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7)
  8. To make us like Christ (Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10)
  9. To glorify God (Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20)
  10. To prevent us from sinning (2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10)
  11. To make us confess when we do sin (Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4)
  12. To chasten us for our sin (1 Pet. 4:17)
  13. To prove our sonship (Heb. 12:5-6)
  14. To reveal ourselves to ourselves (Job 42:6; Luke 15:18)
  15. To help our prayer life (Isa. 26:16)
  16. To become an example to others (2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7)
  17. To qualify us as counselors (Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5)
  18. To further the gospel witness (Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17)
  19. To make us more than conquerors (2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37)
  20. To give us insights into God’s nature (Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18)
  21. To drive us closer to God (1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10)
  22. To prepare us for a greater ministry (1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24)
  23. To provide for us a reward (Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17)
  24. To prepare us for the kingdom (2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12)
  25. To show God’s sovereignty (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20)

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What is worship?

The question might seem simple, but sometimes our answer isn’t comprehensive enough. Is it music alone or something more? I have to admit that on more than one occasion I’ve said something like “The pastoral prayer will be after worship,” or “I’ll preach after worship.” I’ve heard people say, “How was the worship?” and the answer usually had to do with nothing but the music.

Worship is “focusing on and responding to God” (Don Whitney’s definition). A similar way to put it would be “a faithful response to God’s gracious revelation.” The format of worship is the same throughout all of Scripture: God makes Himself known and we respond to Him (see Isaiah 6:1-8 for example)

It should be clear, then, that worship is more than music. Of course it involves music, but that’s not all it is. Responding to God – who He is and what He’s done – is to worship Him. Therefore, we worship God when we gather together as one body to pray, give of our finances, confess our sins, partake of Communion, hear God’s Word read and preached, pledge ourselves to follow Him, and yes, sing praises to His name.

Worship has both a narrow and broad aspect. Narrowly considered, worship is what the church does whenever it gathers together. Broadly considered, worship could apply to just about everything we do in life because it’s a response to God. We worship when we sing and when we forgive someone.Both of them are faithful responses to a gracious God whom we have focused on.

Oh come, let us worship and bodown; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:6-7).

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Question – Should you read from one Bible or more than one?

Answer – You should have a primary translation of the Bible that you study. It’s good to have a consistent reading of Scripture when you’re digging deeper – observing, interpreting, and applying the Bible to your own life. Become familiar with its wording – its rhythm, so to speak.

You should also have a secondary translation for study, as well. It’s a good idea to “check your work” by comparing the two versions.

For study and regular use, I recommend the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible (1995 Update). These two English translations are by far the best and most accurate available today. They’re excellent for reading, study, and memorizing. I study, preach, and teach from the ESV  because although it’s as literal in its word-for-word translation as the NASB, but is more readable (easier to read).

You should have many Bible translations that you read from. A secondary Bible could be any of the following: The New Testament in Modern English, by J.B. Phillips; The New King James Version; and The Holman Christian Standard Bible. I would also highly recommend The Disciple’s Literal New Testament, which is the closest you’ll get to reading the New Testament in Greek. This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means.

Reading in another translation does something very important – it slows you down. If you’re too familiar with a verse, passage, or chapter, it’s quite easy to skim or skip over material quickly. You don’t pay as careful attention as you normally would when read a familiar section that “fits like an old shoe.” When you slow down, though, you’re forced to think and linger over the meaning of Scripture (which is a large part of the biblical practice of meditation).

What about the New International Version? I can no longer recommend this translation because of the many serious changes, not only in translation but philosophy, since the 1984 revision. The latest revision – done in 2011 – is horrible and reflects the worst of agenda-driven gender-neutral political correctness. Unless you have a 1984-or-earlier NIV, don’t use it.

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I listened to an interview with Vincent Bugliosi on a podcast of Dennis Prager’s radio talk show, and was surprised – not in a good way. Bugliosi’s latest book, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, is his case for agnosticism. He is neither a theist (one who believes in a divine being) or an atheist (one who does not believe in a divine being), but rather an agnostic (he doesn’t know and doesn’t think anyone can know for certain if a divine being exists).

I was surprised by the weak, and frankly childish, case against the Bible that Bugliosi presented. I expected more from the man who prosecuted Charles Manson, wrote an excellent book on the assassination of President Kennedy, and is considered a brilliant legal mind. The two points he raised in support of his contention that the Bible is not to be believed or trusted were these:

  1. Genesis 1 and 2 present contradictory accounts of creation. (No, they don’t. Genesis 1:1-2:3 are an account and description of God’s act of creation. Genesis 2:4-25 gives the details of the sixth day of creation, that of human beings which are the focus of God’s action from this point forward. Anyone who reads the text and pays attention should understand there is no contradiction here.)
  2. In Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam “Where are you?” If God is omnipresent and omniscient, why did He have to ask this? Because He asked the question, God is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. (God didn’t ask the question out of ignorance on His part. God knew precisely where Adam was when the question was asked. The purpose of His question was to “bring Adam out in the open,” so to speak. Adam had disobeyed and rebelled against God earlier in the chapter, and was hiding from Him. God wanted Adam to confess his sin and take responsibility for it, which he wasn’t doing. In fact, in verse 10 Adam says he hid because he was afraid of God.)  

Bugliosi’s argument is weak, which surprised me. In an interview which spanned about twenty minutes, it seems that he could have brought up some stronger objections. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how he makes his case, but if he has stronger arguments he didn’t mention them. If I had twenty minutes, I’d want to highlight my strongest points.

Bugliosi’s comments show that even highly intelligent people don’t always think clearly and end up making false claims. It also confirms the idea that there are answers to the questions people have; that we don’t need to be alarmed by every new book written trying to debunk Christianity; and that we need to do our homework (“study to show yourself approved” – 2 Timothy 2:15) so we can debunk the debunkers.

 

 

 

 

 

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When we believe in Jesus Christ – that is, repent of our sin and put our faith and trust in who Jesus is and what He’s done – the Bible says we have “died to sin” (Rom. 6:2) and that we are to consider ourselves “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11).

Why is it, then, that we still commit sin? In his classic book The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges gives the answer:

But if we have been delivered from this realm, why do we still sin? Though God has delivered us from the realm of sin, our sinful natures still reside in us. Even though sin’s dominion and rule are broken, the remaining sin that dwells in believers exerts a tremendous power, constantly working toward evil.

An illustration from warfare can help us to see how this is true. In a particular nation two competing factions were fighting for control of the country. Eventually, with the help of an outside army, one faction won the war and assumed control of the nation’s government. But the losing side did not stop fighting. They simply changed their tactics to guerrilla warfare and continued to fight. In fact, they were so successful that the country supplying the outside help could not withdraw its troops.

So it is with the Christian. Satan has been defeated and the reign of sin overthrown. But our sinful natures resort to a sort of guerrilla warfare to lead us into sin. This results in the struggle between the Spirit  and our sinful natures which Paul wrote about: “For the sinful nature desires what it is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. they are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17).

Even though the reign and rule of sin has been defeated, it has yet to be destroyed, is still present within us, and will be until we are in the presence of the Lord.

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On Blaming God

 

Why do we blame God when things go wrong? (Sidebar: We could also ask why, if we blame God for bad circumstances, why don’t we credit Him for good things? That’s something for another time.)

I’ve narrowed it down to four basic reasons:

First, we have certain expectations about life. We’re convinced, somehow, that things should go well for us and not poorly. For example, when I go into a bookstore, I have the expectation that the store will have the book I’m looking for, and I’m disappointed when they don’t (sometimes even a bit angry). Where I got that idea, I don’t know. When our expectations aren’t met, we blame God and charge Him with not doing His job.

Second, we’re selfish – plain and simple. We want what we want when we want it. We think that life, and the universe, revolves around us. Therefore, when things don’t go according to our plan, God must be the blameworthy party.

Third, we think we deserve the best of everything because we’re such good, upright, and sensible people. In reality, we probably believe we deserve far better than we, in fact, receive. We believe that we deserve a life free of pain, disappointment, or defeat. The problem is, we couldn’t be more wrong! We deserve God’s wrath, judgment, and condemnation as a result of our cosmic treason against God (otherwise known as “sin”).

Fourth, we’re ungrateful by nature. In our sinful fallenness, we’re bent towards ingratitude. Giving thanks, especially to God, can be excruciatingly hard. When we experience something negative, our first instinct is to complain and blame, not praise and give thanks (let alone trust God in the midst of it).

What do you think? Why are we quick to blame God when things go wrong, but slow to praise Him when things go well?

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