LOOKING INTO THE VOID

nothingness

 

Personal experience

As a Christian Apologist its difficult to understand at times what makes the Atheist tick. Over the years I’ve come to understand some basics of how atheism works in people. I was an atheist while I was growing up, my mom was a strong atheist and would have nothing to do with religion or religious people. I learned from the outset that religion was to be mocked and relegated to unproved and unsubstantiated claims. It seemed God was an idea not thought-through. I had many questions for the theist growing up, but I never met one where I could articulate my questions and expect any kind of reasonable answer. My distance from religious people was not one that I created or even my mom, I just never grew up around religious people that would share their faith or question me about mine.

Atheism must grow to survive

Of course not everyone shares that estrangement from religious people, others grew up in homes that were Christian or Catholic and they always had doubts about God and the bible. For a while they acquiesced to their parents and Christian friends at church but those nagging questions and uncertainty sat powerfully upon the throne of intellect. After a while atheism for them was the adolescent quintessential rebellion, it struck at everything around them and formed a world of isolation. This isolation is the pairing up of what was in their hearts and what they were now experiencing by going against the tide of Christian upbringing. It takes strength to swim against the norm, atheism in the heart could not be just a simple ‘uncertainty’ it must have greater horsepower in order to survive the Christian assumptions of God, the authority of the bible, the morals of the Christian and the meta-narratives of creation, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and many other Christian teachings.

What is the Void?

What the young atheist needs is a way to find freedom from all constraints in order to garner all the horsepower one can from a belief that describes itself as unbelief. Enter the Void. This is a mental construct that is placed upon the throne of the heart to reign supreme. What is it? Negatively it is a rejection of all moral constraint, all religious authority, all personal bonds with any ideology that attempts to bind their conscience to a code of ethics or morality that impinges their free expression. Positively it is the personal construction of a mindset that unbinds itself from genuine logic or reasoning that pushes them back into religion or ideologies they have renounced. Here in the Void logic need not be true logic, reasoning need not be coherent, irrationalism is never exposed to the light of actual logic. The Void is a suppressed conscience validated by the emotional state protected by the intellect.

Atheism must reject sound reason

There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining the supreme power of the Void when the intellect is assaulted by sound reason and valid logic every day. In order to maintain the Void, the atheist must become a spin-master. When I say he must, that is an understatement, he absolutely under no circumstances can permit the entry of valid reasoning or logical argument that questions the authority of the Void and its right to hold such a sway in his/her life. In short, as amazing as this seems, the atheist which glories in proclaiming himself the logician and sits in judgment over vast multitudes as reasoner-extraordinaire, cannot allow the entry of valid argument and logical conclusions move him/her from abandoning the Void.

The atheist it seems identifies him/herself with the Void to such an extent all information is sifted through the grid of “Void-protection”…kinda like a virus protection program for a computer where every program is checked and every file scrutinized to protect the internal information from corruption.

Atheist maintenance

This is where the work must begin, in order to keep up the pretense of Atheism-is-logical, the atheist must engage in the dangerous occupation of listening too and articulating a logical argument and display valid reasoning. The problem of course is not seen immediately. You find many atheists who argue very persuasively and many people reading or listening to them find their logic and reasoning sound, verifiable and coherent. But, using the evolution analogy the micro-evolution or adaptation equivalent to minor atheist claims eg. gods have been found false, religions oppressive and superstitions harmful, are valid claims. But atheism itself wants the whole enchilada, it wants to validate itself with a jump to macro-evolution which is equivalent to saying  those smaller generalizations inductively prove atheism as an ‘unbelief’ is founded upon science, logic and evidences which cannot be denied. However, when the Christian goes beyond the first defense of intellectual battles and recognizes their defeat is actual even though they claim-in-chains they have won; the emotional battle begins. Now all bets are off; logic, reason and evidence serve no purpose for the atheist. It must be understood the Christian is under strict rules not to break the laws of logic, but that does not apply to the atheist, nor will he permit it to apply to him/her. A double standard is paramount in atheist conversations where emotion is the attacker.

Protect the Void by all means

The atheist is nuanced, he/she has a Void that is purely their own and has no authority outside of itself. This is partly why we read of so many atheists that will not align with any other atheist to protect the Void. The atheist own personal intellect  is the sole guard and has been entrusted with that duty. Atheists band together for the peripherals eg. evolution, gay rights, leftist agendas. These activities are the first defense, albeit the weakest. The intellect of the atheist can agree with other atheist intellect to form a common alliance for the purpose of protecting the Void within each of them. This is where the Christian often meets with the front-lines of atheism, when anti-theist claims are made, the Christian fights against those claims, or when evolution is promoted the Christian resists with anti-evolutionary counter-claim. But, again the Void is never actually questioned at all. The atheist can talk all day long and invent myriads of assertions and claims that contain no substantive argument or evidence. The atheist may join ranks with another atheist on an intellectual level for the sole purpose of attacking the Christian and yet personally hold no other commonality than the defense of their own personal Void.

The Void has its reasons

Remember the Void itself is the engine that powers all of the arguments and produces the desire to reject anything that endangers the Void.  Remember also that the Void is not a logical choice, its an emotional action who’s sole purpose is to suppress the internal knowledge of God, truth, logic and anything else that disrupts the emotional state and draws the mind into conclusions it cannot accept. At the base of many atheist arguments you hear this. My mom died…God should have; I was alone, afraid and victimized…God could have; I am unloved, unwanted, rejected…where is God? These difficult scenarios are encountered by us all, but some at their darkest hour wanted to believe, but their hopes were crushed and with that there arose an anger that ‘rejected God back’ for what happened to them. After years, these scenarios have been overlaid with intellectual argument that compares to the strata of the Grand Canyon. This is only one type of person that chose the Void, there are others. The point here is not to psychoanalyze the atheist, its to recognize the chosen Void that set them free ( in their opinion) to live how they want is completely self-serving. It seems the real purpose of the Void is for self-preservation and atheism is one aspect or avenue the mind can use to deal with reality. If any atheist is reading this right now and says “religion does all of these things too”. That would be true, the difference of course is humanly devised religion invents a god while rejecting the true God. The invented god is one that is tame, one that is predictable and always one that is accepting of their own personal proclivities. Its an opposite method using the same principles found in atheism. For this reason Christianity is opposed to false religions equally as much as atheism; they both deny the One True God and replace Him with alternative solutions.

Atheism and its intellectual arguments are smoke-screen

From the most advanced and intellectual Christian Apologist to the novice Christian believer, they both know that atheism and false religions are suppressors of the truth which permit the person who is suppressing the knowledge of God to have emotional stability while he endeavors to please himself however he wills.

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

It is the experience of every Christian who debates or engages in conversations with Atheists or Agnostics that suppression of the truth is the very heart of the Void. What other group of people declare how wise they are in logic, reason and science than the atheist? I know of none. What other group of people see without perceiving  refuse to give thanks to God nor acknowledge him or his creative power than the atheist? What other people are to be so pitied and so lamented as the atheist? Who among men in our culture are so backwards in their thinking, so illogical and so irrational as the atheist? I can think of no other people group that pretend to so high of intellectual and rational thinking but internally they are in a chaotic world, lost and scared. Oh the smoke screens are up, the actors are on stage, the masks are on and the directors are guiding the cast. But the play must come to an end and the actors eventually remove the masks step off the stage and join the audience.

The gospel is the power of God unto Salvation

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

This is Paul’s words to the Romans before he commenced to illustrate the downfall of pagan men. The best Christian apologist cannot remove the Void, we cannot nullify irrational arguments with rationality. We cannot introduce enough logic to persuade the illogical man/woman that its ok to abandon their need for self-preservation. In short, they would die first…and that my dear Christian is the genuine call of discipleship and biblical salvation. It is recognizing that until we all come to grips with dying to self that God will lavish His love upon us and pour out grace after grace and bring faith and hope and love into empty lives.

Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Eph 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Eph 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
Eph 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

ESV.

For a remarkable and first rate explanation of Atheism please visit this blog where I took the term ‘Void’ and used it to clarify my own understanding of atheism.

http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com/2013/01/principles-of-atheism-part-1.html 

 

 

 

 

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Dr Horton review of Jesus Calling

There is more to Christianity than the mindset of various theologians who have decided that anything experiential in terms of intimate encounters with Christ or the Holy Spirit are errant and turn people away from the word. What those theologians lack, they should seek. Instead they condemn those who have obtained what they don’t have and denounce the practices of those who operate on a level they do not.

I have not read Jesus calling by Sarah Young. But I have extensively read Andrew Murray. I can only say Dr. Horton is as wrong about Andrew Murray as one can get. He is wrong to dissuade people from reading him, he is wrong for turning folks away from what Andrew teaches.

I fully embrace the doctrines of grace, but that is not to leave out Andrew Murray. To the detriment of the body of Christ Dr. Horton undermining the ministry of Andrew Murray and the excellent teaching Bro. Murray gives. It might be because Dr. Horton is not happy unless all things are Presbyterian, but the body of Christ is more than Dr. Horton’s little world of walking with Christ. Its bigger because God is bigger than Dr. Hortons version.  Please see the full article here by Dr. Michael Horton.  http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/03/05/review-of-jesus-calling/#comment-63883

Reading through the various posts that equate Murray with every kind of loon or falsehood is guilt by association which is a sin, and which was done to Christ himself “he sitteth with sinners” Mar 2:16  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 

But, because it resembles the same spirit the pharisees have, I condemn such an attitude in anyone posting such and I think Dr. Horton goes too far. His discerning has turned to division, his warnings of falsehood imitate the bad spirit the disciples had in this context…Mar 9:38  And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

Mar 9:39  But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Instead, we seem to become offenders, people who for their own reason expect everyone to be followers “of them”.

Today instead of love its discrediting the miracle, lampooning the ministry, even guilt by association whereby their books are supposedly in error. The real error is the spirit in which this review takes us away from Christ and places it upon “following us”. The Spirit in which Andrew Murray spoke was never to follow him or imitate some ancient style of worship. He directed people to Christ and sent them there time after time, tirelessly reminding the believers their real power comes from faith in Him. Its beyond me to understand why anyone would attempt to bash Andrew Murray when he is superior to them in helping Christians walk with Christ. His fear is that such ‘experience’ will undermine the word of God. I say nonsense. The word of God is meant to be practiced therefore experience is exactly what God wants. The bible is not hum-drum and Andrew Murray never expressed anything of the sort in any of his writings. This strawman is now exposed and linking his burn down of this strawman cannot be for any reason Andrew Murray gave him. 

There is more to the Body of Christ than those who import a special privlege into their own world. I make no argument for heresies, abuses and misuses of scripture, or exploitation of the believers. But I do take issue with those who seem to think they have a corner on truth and practices. In short if its not their way is the highway. Well, I believe those who write articles to condemn various books or teachers had better have better evidence than its ‘not the reformed method’. If half of our current bible teachers could write sermons like Spurgeon, or guide willing souls like Murray, or take them out of the musty shelves of theology into the living theology of word and experience together they would never quibble about such things. But, quibbling appears in place of real understanding on how to walk with Christ in prayer, intercession, faith and fellowship the reader is bullied into condemning those teachers because God didn’t make them in the same mold as their critics.  Before anyone claims hypocrisy on my part for condemning Dr. Horton’s rejection of Andrew Murray I will clarify. I am a fan of Dr. Horton, I have his systematic Theology “The Christian Faith“. I recommend the book and appreciate Dr. Horton. I seek to emulate his study, diligence and quality in ministry. But, I disagree completely with painting bull-eyes upon all things charismatic and shooting them down. I realize he is a cessationist and he red-flags anything thats’ divergent from cessationism. I am not a cessationist, I am a Charismatic/reformed believer and thankfully I am one. I don’t toss out 1Cor 12-14 as filler for the modern Christian and needy for the 1st century Christian.

I want to include this allegorical conversation in the same vein as “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis.

Cessationism, is in my opinion simply a hold over from the enlightenment. Rationalism creeps in the Church and decides what is God and what is not…all according to the prevailing logic of the time. Of course the enlightened mind is not going to rest on humanism alone, it needs some bible to back it up. So, find some texts quick…yep that text in Corinthians that tells us tongues will cease and knowledge will vanish away. What is perfect? Well the bible is perfect so this must be God replacing the gifts with a Zondervan.

Borrowing from Screwtape, I imagine a conversation about Gifts going something like this.  Mind you, C.S. Lewis didn’t write this segment, I am borrowing his ‘devils apprentice’ idea for a moment so as to give those who have read the Screwtape letters a little background.

Probie: But what about the fact Paul isn’t really talking about the bible in 1 cor 13?

Screwtape: That doesn’t matter, what matters is that its reasonable, rational, fitting to a skeptical mindset. Besides its embarrassing for academics to be lumped in with loonies, quacks, heretics and soothsayers.

Probie: But what if God’s people are none of those things while seeking and receiving God’s gifts?

Screwtape: No matter, discourage seekers them by speaking of the abuses by the clergy, the falsehood of false prophets, and don’t forget Hume to help us really put the screws to anyone saying he’s witnessed miracles. The best antidote for spirituals is to insinuate they are just the opposite, they are quacks, heretics, demonic, impersonators of good.

Probie: But what if they are not?

Screwtape: That does not matter, what matters is the appearance of order, logic, reason and spirituality.

Probie: But the cultist can imitate that too;

Screwtape: Yes, and don’t say that too loud. Its important to vacuum out true spirituality from theology. Its far more important to create a whole theology of the Spirit with the complete absence of the manifestations of the Spirit. We want them to think they can have a bible from the 1st century, fight for it and then openly deny what it teaches by listening to rationalism masquerading as good theology. All of this fits into the plan to make a Church that does not resemble the Church in the New Testament at all. Its important to persuade them that being devoid of Spiritual gifts is really spiritual, being against spiritual gifts of what the Spirit truly wants. We do this with holiness too, its just that after a while it becomes so obvious that compromise has set in, they immediately set out to pray for revival and repent.

Screwtape’s conclusion: The whole idea is to divorce the 21st century Christian from the activities of the 1 century Christian so that imitating Christ becomes something other than following scripture, it becomes an invention of the next ‘non-charismatic leader’ that pulls them farther and farther away from any resemblance of Christian life contained in scripture.
Probie: One last question; What about the excesses abuses and misuses within the Charismatics, doesn’t that prove the gifts are ceased because there is nothing but fakes out there?
Screwtape: Probie you are a failure at logic 101, the abuse of anything doesn’t prove its in-validity, it only proves it can be twisted and that’s the point. Its to twist the gifts for some so that their personal disposition caters to rejecting what is clear in scripture. We want people with academic bents to fight with those who have experiential mindsets, we want division over what is available in scripture so that those who have it are induced to be embarrassed by it and those who don’t believe it are induced to never seek it because they don’t trust themselves to do much of anything without thinking it all the way through. Rationalism for them is making sure they know all that is going to happen before it does…Its a laugh on them… they need to be prophetic in order to even ask for the prophetic. I know it’s contradictory but hey, thats’ what we are about. This is a great help to the legions of darkness, for the twisting and perversion of spirituals helps us and it helps us even more when a segment of the believers resists those who have those gifts and induce them to question them. Killing faith to seek or to use spirituals is what our kingdom is working at.” So says Screwtape. 

Lastly, I consider it on the level of diabolical to toss out the believers that we do not agree with. Instead of allowing a wide berth for various ministries, we fracture, become factious and pretend that Christ is endorsing our little petty litmus tests.

God is more Post Modern than you thought Pt. 2

In my first article at approached the idea that God may have already been acquainted with what we call post-modernism and in fact warned against it.

Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Gen 3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
Gen 3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
Gen 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Gen 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Gen 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Gen 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Gen 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
Gen 3:10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Gen 3:11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Gen 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Gen 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Gen 3:14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Gen 3:17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
Gen 3:18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
Gen 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Gen 3:20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
Gen 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
Gen 3:23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Gen 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. ESV

The scriptures record this event in order that we may understand that the very first sin is in accord with the mood of Postmodernity. The idea that questioning authority is not our original thought, it was a thought given to them by Satan himself. Irregardless of whether you disagree with talking snakes and deadly trees the truth remains; what is common to sinful men is the fact that they act autonomously, using their own reason and will to define truth and determine what is false and what is true. From this they determine whether or not to use history as a guide and judge for themselves the relevance of truth of past generations as a viable truth for their own generation and finally determine who they believe themselves to be. 

In light of these things, let us consider something of paramount importance. The question was asked, , “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Earlier God had given both Adam and Eve the command not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but now the question was raised as a sub-text “why the prohibition”? It must be that God is keeping you back from knowledge and that such knowledge does not come with death attached to it. Is this not the postmodern idea? That the commands of those in authority are in effect withholding something beneficial to us? Is that not exactly what was stated in my previous post?

The truth is again just another form of containment, but this time it’s built on words and ideas that may have nothing to do with me or my world. Truth, becomes the law of the oppressor, the prison guard that forbids expression of all that is contradictory to that so-called ‘truth’. The postmodernist says “who wants truth that is nothing more than a verbalized power play”? Historical interpretation again deals with the idea that language does not convey truth to the postmodernist, but an interpretation of events tailored to give one side advantage over another.

What is not recognized is that giving the person what they want can also be manipulative and effect a coercion to entrap and enslave them. There is no one with insight so keen and intuition so sharp that he can avoid all manipulation and yet pretend to own no objective truth. He has no way to interpret manipulation from true freedom, whatever truth he seeks to avoid on one end is pushing to entrapment on the other end. The old old story of the fall of Adam and Eve is not near so irrelevant as postmodernism would have us believe.

There is another danger that forces us to rethink the postmodern mood; the danger of what we autonomously declare to be good and helpful to us is bound to destroy us without remedy. So it is with postmodernism, it has run away from the old meta-narratives that warn of dangers spoken from the mouths of modernists; but what the postmodernist has judged to be good. As was said earlier

Any meta-narrative that prohibits or denies my freedom of expression sexually, morally, verbally or in acts or deeds through art, literature, invention or some form of creativity is an enemy to me.  The postmodernist says I am trapped and condemned by such a narrative. When objective truth is used, it is generally regarded as not objective but subjective and therefore oppressive.

What is it that brought about the fall of Adam and Eve? What helped them to decide to hazard a disobedience to a known command? Satan said “Gen 3:4…You will not surely die.
Gen 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” They believed a lie, a direct contradiction of what God had said. But the disobedience didn’t come by a simple change of mind on their own, a lie was needed to redirect their course of action. For many post-moderns they claim the lie is from the mouth of the modernist that warns them of error and declares truth based upon external sources from themselves. We find now that the postmodernist has no one to trust, he cannot even trust himself to rightly discern the path to take. Am I believing a lie? Or, Am I being told the truth but slanted in order to entrap me somehow? Who can I trust? For many, the answer lay in hap-hazarding their lives in what gives them personal pleasure. To make it simple a trip into nihilism with an avoidance of tackling heavy questions satisfies a number of post moderns. For these people, their course is set upon the guide posts that direct them to personal satisfaction and any deviation from that is not tolerated in their mind.

Lastly, what was not so apparent to Adam and Eve, is held out to us in bold relief; the only way for us to know ‘independent knowledge of good and evil’ is to become evil to gain that knowledge. This is what took place. You may verbalize it in various ways; becoming immoral in order to have the knowledge of morality both good and evil, becoming alienated from God in order to know what God knows. The reality of Adam and Eve is they could only enter into such a knowledge by becoming an enemy to God; in order for Adam and Eve to experience such a knowledge they must reject other explicit knowledge that kept them safe from harm. For what the sinful man desires, he cannot obtain, he is unable to be moral because he is naturally immoral and his parents before him all the way back to Adam were immoral and they understood morality only from the perspective of being immoral.

Is this not the foundation for the greatest heart-ache and the worst of all disasters in the annuls of human history? It is the idea that God’s authoritative word is made to be a hindrance to the knowledge and freedom of humanity. This age old lie is still being promoted under a new banner, the banner of postmodernism. This is not about forcing religion down anyone’s throat or about making people conform to some stereotype behavior, it is about the reality that there is a God that can be known and his love can be known and experienced. This God is not the product of a tyrannical leader seeking to oppress, it is not the conspiracy of many trying to enslave masses, this is the reality of what scripture teaches. God is supposed to be known and loved and our human abilities demonstrate the powerful creative strength of God to make so many individuals with unique characteristics, all of them in some way revealing the true God as creator and originator of uniqueness.

The fall of Adam and Eve show how mankind developed its waywardness, how humanity ever seeks to find a unity of knowledge but cannot conform to that knowledge and cannot agree on what is true and what is false without a guide. You see, God is more postmodern than you thought; He is individual, He is informed and able to discern clearly the path for each of us to take, He is not seeking to quench individual beauty and creativity, he seeks to give to each of us a joy that only comes from finding trust in Jesus Christ and finding hope in Jesus that the future is not a gamble but secure and waiting for us. Jesus Christ is not a buzz-kill, He is in fact the creator of all joy and the reason why humanity loves power, strength, truth, happiness, creativity, community, peace and love. Its because all these things abide in him and are given to us as part of his life giving power through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said it this way.

Joh 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Joh 15:2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Joh 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
Joh 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Joh 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Joh 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Joh 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Joh 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
Joh 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Joh 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Joh 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Joh 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Joh 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Joh 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Joh 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

The commands of Jesus are for our receiving great things from God, loving one another, knowing and loving God himself and finding community even with those who are your enemies. I believe this is what postmodernism wants, but alas, estranged from God it cannot obtain. But when a man puts his faith in Christ, believes that Christ will forgive his sins and disobedience to God’s word, Jesus will bring forgiveness and cleanse us from all sin and transgression. We will have a new start, a new spirit and a new desire to know God and depend upon him as was originally meant for human kind to do. For the first time, you may obtain knowledge about the world that is not poisoned by your own disobedience and your own immorality, you will be finally free.

The Gospel in Acts 3

cross

Act 3:26  God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. Some background. Luk 24:46  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, Luk 24:47  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Now let me take you back to Peter’s sermon to them, mid way.

Act 3:13  The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.
Act 3:14  But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,
Act 3:15  and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Act 3:16  And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Act 3:17  “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
Act 3:18  But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Act 3:19  Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
Act 3:20  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
Act 3:21  whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Act 3:22  Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.
Act 3:23  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
Act 3:24  And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.

Its important to note that when Jesus preached in Jerusalem, what kind of people were there. We find that the religion was corrupt; the Pharisee’s were ruling the people with hypocrisy, laying heavy burdens on them that they could not bare up under. Even to these Christ said “come unto me…my yoke is easy my burden is light”. They were filled with hatred toward the Samaritans “which the Jews have nothing to do”, hatred toward the Romans which represented their conquered state and pagan occupation. Yet to one these Christ said “I have not found such faith in all Israel”. Even Jesus himself through doing miracles, healings, feeding the multitudes, raising the dead was the subject of their hatred “the Jews sought to kill him”. In the end when Pilate asked ‘shall I release him”? They asked for a murderer to be released instead. But Christ, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and despised the shame; and again he endured shame from sinners against himself because Christ would have himself a people and reveal his conquering love to the whole world.

So, Christ said “Beginning at Jerusalem”. Here we see God willing to show his great love and great power in the gospel. He instructed his Apostle to preach to Jerusalem first. Christ went to the hardened sinners and declared eternal life; yet mercifully through faith and repentance lovingkindness and tender mercies was to be found. We see it was not to the ignorant pagans at the first, but to the ignorant ones who killed the ‘prince of life’. Christ went to the ones who hated him and screamed at him while bearing the cross to Golgotha. This Christ did to show that his love is toward the worst, the ones who deserve the wrath of God without mitigation, without question…but instead as Peter said “to you first” he is preached in order to turn you all from your wickedness.

The gospel presented to the Jew first is deeper than a prophetic call to a race of people, instead, it is to a people who’s hearts represented the hearts of the whole world. Hearts that are hardened, angry, despising Christ, revengeful, hating the Lord, holding open enmity against God in all forms and with all malice afflicting God’s own Son and God’s own people. Those who should be in covenant love with God are alienated from the life of God by wicked works, hard speeches and covetous practices that must not be restrained by any Holy God. It is to these people Peter begins his ministry and it is to these people that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon. Peter was preaching to no well-wishers of the Christian faith, he was preaching to Christ’s killers and conspirators of evil.

But God is rich in mercy and we see it again and again in Christ’s ministry. Christ did not withhold bread to the hungry even when he knew they would ‘seek the loaves and fishes instead of Him”. He didn’t withhold healing even though he knew they would attempt to deify the Apostles as they acted in faith. He didn’t withhold healing to a Caananite woman’s daughter possessed of a Devil even though she had to fight against her position as “dog” that didn’t have a right to the childrens bread. He didn’t withhold the truth from a cowardly Pharisee that should know these spiritual truths that he asked Christ to explain. He didn’t withhold healing from the weak in faith, a resurrection from those who could only hope to the future and had no faith to roll away a stone of unbelief. The woman with the issue of blood found healing with just a touch, Jesus withheld nothing from her even though her uncleanness barred her from him.  Christ healed the servant of the Chief Priest who had come to take Christ during the night, his ear being cut off is restored. What can be said of all those whom Christ came to and brought God’s tender mercies? The man who for years infirm at the pool, the woman with a spirit of infirmity 18 years, the man with the withered hand? Shall we include begging blind men? Shall we remember that Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children, then again 4000 who would later attend his crucifixion with jeering and mocking? At his trial where were his defenders? At his scourging where was his advocate? At the crucial hour he was betrayed then denied and finally forsaken. Upon all this suffering it is said “and God crushed him” His soul was made an offering for sin.

Christ again and again comes to meet us where we are weak, where we have no hope and no strength. He suffered for us that he might show how his great forgiving love is greater than their killer-hearts. Paul the Apostle being even more bold says; Eph 2:4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Eph 2:5  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Finally, To these most corrupt and most sinful of all, a second warning comes, but not in the way we should think. One should think that these people needed the rocks to fall upon them, that such a judgment as Sodom had received was too good for them. To kill the prince of Life? Should not this be met with the heaviest of punishments? Should not the wrath to be unleashed be greater than anything ever seen? Who would question God for crushing underfoot those who crushed his Son? Who would fault God for avenging his Elect Son with terrible calamities beyond description? Yet,this warning is different. It is not a warning that sinners must flee from God and hide themselves from this wrath. It is a warning that says “This free and gracious mercy is offered to the Jerusalem sinner irrespective of any evil committed to this day, this pardon and offer of hope and forgiveness is available without any offering, without any sacrifices, without any gold or blood.” The warning consists of striking fear into their hearts if they do not run to his free and gracious mercy, if they do not throw themselves at his offer of redemption and tender mercies.

This is the day of salvation, this is the day where all offenses can be forgiven and there is no necessity for anyone to flee from God. God’s anger is not let loose, God’s wrath is stored up but not poured out, God’s judgment is put down and all debt is canceled at the mere confession “I believe Christ has risen from the dead and HE is my LORD.” The astounding offer is heard “flee from sin and run to God who will forgive all, heal and deliver you freely”.

We see what it means to be warned, not with wrath, but that only those who forsake mercy will obtain wrath, those who refuse forgiveness will suffer the punishment for their sins. How terrible is the hearts of some men that will forsake the mercies of God and claim that God is out to punish and destroy them when God has provided every promise necessary for them to lay hold of eternal life. To such men their judgment is just and their punishment is deserved. But we believe better things of you who have tasted of the Spirit of God and have been made partakers of faith, ready to believe this simple gospel.

Some might say “I have sinned so much, I have blasphemed God and I have despised Christ all my life”. To you Christ says “every one of you” is to be turned from their sins so that you may be forgiven.

Another might say “I have never been good, my heart says I am not able to come to Christ as I am” Christ says to you, “let every one of you be turned from your sin”, you are welcome too.

Others have said “I have doubted God all my life, I am likely to have crucified Christ had I the choice, I cannot come” Christ says to you,” I have come to you that you might believe that I am He, every one of you may come unto me and I will in no wise cast him out”.

One says that he is no Jew that the offer is not made to him. Christ says “I have opened my covenant to include everyone that believeth, he that confesseth that I have risen from the dead and come under my Lordship is to be saved” To the Gentiles this covenant with God is offered, the Jew and the Gentile my now live as brothers where there is no Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male of female, for you are all now one in Christ.

Lastly one says “I have heard all my life that I am doomed to destruction, that I am a sinner by birth and there is nothing good in me, I am born to suffer eternal punishment”. To you Christ says listen to me, Everyone of you that hears my voice and believes upon me shall have eternal life, if you hear, then believe, if you believe then come unto me and I will accept you and you shall abide with me forever”.

It behooves us now to accept what we are, sinful men who are offered such a great mercy and great grace that we might be called the sons of God. Christ has come and died and raised again so that we might be made sons of light, children of the Most High. Everyone of us may flee from sin and flee from the punishment to come and learn of the love of Christ which will abide in us. That same Spirit which dwelt in Christ will live in us and teach us all things and we will have an anointing that will reveal all things to us. Repent of remaining alienated from God, put away the demands of sin-allegiance and believe Christ’s offer of free grace.

Jesus Christ welcomes all.

Speaking the truth in love and apologetics

Written by Dave Jenkins

Dave has become one of my favorite apologist with an excellent understanding of apologetics and gospel centered thinking.

The past decade or so has seen perhaps the greatest increase in information the world has ever known. The internet is loaded with good information and also information that isn’t helpful. Christians are thrust into this environment as we have been called by Jesus to be in the world, but not of the world. The Bible teaches Christians to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

The idea of full Christian maturity is characterized in verse 14 from its negative aspect; in verse 15 positively. In striving to reach the goal and in advancing in that direction believers are goaded by the desire that they may no longer be like children in a tempest-tossed boat which they cannot manage.

Error is never overcome by mere negation. Over and against the deceitfulness of the errorists, the Ephesians should adhere to the truth that is practice integrity. And what ministry (Ephesians 4:12) can be more noble than that which, while resolutely opposing deceit, sets forth the truthfulness of life and lip over against it and does all this in the spirit of love?

There are two great enemies of a successful ministry, whether carried on among believers or among unbelievers. One is a departure from truth, compromise with the lie, whether in word or deeds. The other is a chilling indifference with respect to the hearts and lives, the troubles and trials of the people whom one is ostensibly trying to persuade. Paul has the real solution, the truth must be practiced in love (3:18; 4:2; 5:1-2), which was exactly what he was constantly doing (2 Cor. 2:4Gal. 4:16191 Thess. 2:7-12); and telling others to do (1 Tim. 4:111-13).

In fact, love must mark all of life. By means of such behavior we will impart a blessing not only to others but to ourselves also, for we will “grow up in all things into him who is the head, even Christ.”(Ephesians 4:15). We must grow up into union with Him. The same intimacy of conscious oneness with Christ is stressed in Romans 6:5, where the idea is expressed that believers are “grown together” with him. Such statements do not in any way obliterate the infinite distinction between Christ and Christians. They do not indicate identity but intimacy. The distinction between believers and their Lord is clearly enunciated here, for the latter is called the head, while the former are designated “the entire body.” What is meant by growing up in to Christ is interpreted by the apostle Paul in Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words in the words of Horatius Bonar, “So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free, but all my life, in every step, be fellowship with thee.”

In addition to speaking the Truth in love, Christians are to speak and always be ready to give a defense of the faith (1st Peter 3:15) The Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 3:15 gives the basis for Apologetics, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Christians must consecrate Christ Jesus in their hearts. The heart is the central part of man’s existence, “for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). When the heart is controlled by Jesus Christ, the believer dedicates his entire life to Him. Then the Christian is safe from fear and is able to defend himself against his opponents.

Peter adapted this quotation from Isaiah 8:13, which says, “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” In his day, Isaiah told the people not to fear the invading Assyrian armies but to revere God. In his epistle, Peter has the same encouraging message. However, he changes the wording by honoring Christ as the Lord Almighty, so that he is the Lord Christ. The position of the term Lord in the sentence creates two different translations: “sanctify the Lord Christ” or “sanctify Christ as Lord.” Although both versions make good sense the second translation is better because it imparts greater emphasis to the word Lord.

“Be prepared.” When Peter exhorts the readers to be ready to witness for the Lord at all times, does he mean that Christians should speak indiscriminately about their faith? No, not at all. Jesus says in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

Christians, then must be discreet, “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). They must know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. Christians should respond to opportunities to speak boldly for the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter tells the readers to be ready, he means that they not only should be willing but also should have the ability to speak for Christ. Therefore, they must know the teaching of the Bible and Christian doctrine so they are always ready to give an answer.

“Give an answer.” The admonition to “give an answer to everyone who asks you” is not limited to times when a Christian must take the stand in a courtroom. In some instances the Christian must defend himself against verbal attacks from hostile unbelievers. At other times he is asked to teach the gospel to a neighbor who shows genuine interest in understanding the Christian religion. The term everyone is inclusive and relates to all circumstances. When we revere Christ as Lord, we experience that “out of the overflow of the heart our mouth speaks’ (Matt. 12:34). Accordingly, our verbal expressions should be exemplary, and wholesome. We should demonstrate an ability to give an answer to everyone who asks us about our faith in Christ (Col. 4:6).

“Reason.” What does a Christian have? He has hope, says Peter. Although hope is one of the three Christian virtues (1 Cor. 13:13), faith and love seem to overshadow it. In sermons and discussions we often neglect to talk about hope. Nevertheless, in his epistle Peter mentions hope frequently. In the Greek, the verb occurs in 1:13 and 3:5, and the noun in 1:3, 21, and 3:15. What is the hope that a Christian possesses in his heart? Hope is patient, disciplined, confident waiting for and expectation of the Lord as our Savior. The write of Hebrews exhorts in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

1st Peter 3:15b-16, “yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

“Yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Peter instructs the readers to exercise gentleness, and this he echoes with the words for Jesus (“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt.. 11:29), whose example the believer should adopt.

When we sanctify Christ in our hearts, we should exercise gentleness and respect toward all men. In our behavior we exert ourselves to demonstrate gentleness toward persons who are spiritually weak (rom. 15:1-2). In our conduct we make every effort to show honor and respect toward God and toward those whom God has placed over us (2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). We strive to be living models of the example Christ has set.

“Having a good conscience.” Christians who have a clear conscience are readily motivated to show their respect and obedience to God. When as a prisoner in Jerusalem Paul defended himself before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he exclaimed in Acts 23:1, “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” that is, before God he had done his missionary work in all sincerity and truth; his conscience was clear.

“Those who revile your good behavior.” To opponents of the Christina faith, a Christian who professes his faith in Christ has already provided sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Moreover, numerous accusations can be leveled at an innocent Christian.

Notice the similarity with a preceding verse in this epistle. There Peter writes, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (2:12).

“May be put to shame.” When unbelievers maliciously direct falsehoods against Christians who seek to live by the example Christ has set, truth eventually triumphs. When the evidence shows that the conduct of Christians is blameless, the unbelievers themselves are put to shame by their own slander.

The writer of Hebrews tells the readers to leave behind the elementary doctrines about Christ and to move on to maturity (6:1). A Christian must be able to formulate his faith in elementary propositions so that when he/she is asked about his/her faith, he/she is able to speak about Christianity. He/she must be able to lead others to Christ and refute the charges of unbelievers. In evangelizing neighbors, a Christian should have the elementary qualifications to teach others the way of salvation. When hhe/she confronts the attacks of the humanist and the atheist, a Christian should have a basic working knowledge of the Scripture to be able to substantiate the phrase the Bible says. And when members of sects ring the doorbell, the well-informed Christian should become the teacher to lead these visitors to the Lord Jesus Christ.

http://www.christianapologeticsalliance.com/2013/09/13/speaking-the-truth-in-love-and-apologetics/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+caa%2Fblog+%28Christian+Apologetics+Alliance+Blog%29&utm_content=FaceBook

The Gospel of Grace offered to the Worst Sinners

This is an excerpt taken from John Bunyan’s Jerusalem sinners’ saved sermon. It is a rich mine of gospel instruction and anyone who reads it will come away blessed and adoring the Lord Jesus Christ more than before. I believe it is very good for apologist to have a rich understanding of the gospel and a deep insight into the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I offer this as a help to you as saints turning from sins and as a fellow sinner in need of Christ’s abundant grace himself.

To read the full Sermon please visit

http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.John.Bunyan/Sermons.Allegories/Jerusalem.Sinner.Saved/index.html

[THE REASONS OF THE POINT.]

The observation, you know, is this: Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, to the Jerusalem sinners: ‘Preach repentance, and remission of sins, in my name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’

The reasons of the point are:

First, Because the biggest sinners have most need thereof .

He that has most need, reason says, should be helped first. I mean, when a helping hand is offered, and now it is; for the gospel of the grace of God is sent to help the world (Act 16:9). But the biggest sinner has most need. Therefore, in reason, when mercy is sent down from heaven to men, the worst of men should have the first offer of it. ‘Begin at Jerusalem.’ This is the reason which the Lord Christ himself renders, why, in his lifetime, he left the best, and turned him to the worst; why he sat so loose from the righteous, and stuck so close to the wicked. ‘The whole,’ saith he, ‘have no need of the physician, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance’ (Mark 2:15-17).[7]

Above, you read that the scribes and Pharisees said to his disciples, ‘How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?’ Alas! they did not know the reason; but the Lord renders them one, and such an one as is both natural and cogent, saying, These have need, most need. Their great necessity requires that I should be most friendly, and show my grace first to them.

Not that the other were sinless, and so had no need of a Saviour; but the publicans and their companions were the biggest sinners; they were, as to view, worse than the scribes; and, therefore, in reason, should be helped first, because they had most need of a Saviour.

Men that are at the point to die, have more need of the physician than they that are but now and then troubled with a heart-fainting qualm. The publicans and sinners were, as it were, in the mouth of death; death was swallowing of them down:[8] and, therefore, the Lord Jesus receives them first; offers them mercy first. ‘The whole have no need of the physician, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.’ The sick, as I said, is the biggest sinner, whether he sees his disease or not. He is stained from head to foot, from heart to life and conversation. This man, in every man’s judgment, has the most need of mercy. There is nothing attends him from bed to board, and from board to bed again, but the visible characters, and obvious symptoms, of eternal damnation. This, therefore, is the man that has need, most need; and, therefore, in reason, should be helped in the first place. Thus it was with the people concerned in the text; they were the worst of sinners, Jerusalem sinners, sinners of the biggest size; and, therefore, such as had the greatest need; wherefore they must have mercy offered to them, before it be offered to anywhere else in the world. ‘Begin at Jerusalem,’ offer mercy first to a Jerusalem sinner. This man has most need, he is furthest from God, nearest to hell, and so one that has most need. This man’s sins are in number the most, in cry the loudest, in weight the heaviest, and, consequently, will sink him soonest; wherefore he has most need of mercy. This man is shut up in Satan’s hand, fastest bound in the cords of his sins: one that justice is whetting his sword to cut off; and, therefore, has most need, not only of mercy, but that it should be extended to him in the first place.

But a little further to show you the true nature of this reason, to wit, That Jesus Christ would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners.

First, Mercy ariseth from the bowels and compassion, from pity, and from a feeling of the condition of those in misery. ‘In his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them.’ And again, ‘The Lord is pitiful, very pitiful, and of tender mercy’ (Isa 63:9; James 5:11).

Now, where pity and compassion is, there is yearning of bowels; and where there is that, there is a readiness to help. And, I say again, the more deplorable and dreadful the condition is, the more directly doth bowels and compassion turn themselves to such, and offer help and deliverance. All this flows from our first scripture proof, I came to call them that have need; to call them first, while the rest look on and murmur.

‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?’ Ephraim was a revolter from God, a man that had given himself up to devilism; a company of men, the ten tribes that worshipped devils, while Judah kept with his God. But ‘how shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? [and yet thou art worse than they, nor has Samaria committed half thy sins (Eze 16:46-51)] Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together’ (Hosea 11:8).

But where do you find that ever the Lord did thus rowl [9] in his bowels for and after any self-righteous man? No, no; they are the publicans and harlots, idolaters and Jerusalem sinners, for whom his bowels thus yearn and tumble about within him: for, alas! poor worms, they have most need of mercy.

Had not the good Samaritan more compassion for that man that fell among thieves (though that fall was occasioned by his going from the place where they worshipped God, to Jericho, the cursed city), than we read he had for any other besides? His wine was for him, his oil was for him, his beast for him; his penny, his care, and his swaddling bands for him; for, alas! wretch, he had most need (Luke 10:30-35).

Zaccheus the publican, the chief of the publicans, one that had made himself the richer by wronging of others; the Lord at that time singled him out from all the rest of his brother publicans, and that in the face of many Pharisees, and proclaimed in the audience of them all, that that day salvation was come to his house (Luke 19:1-8).

The woman, also, that had been bound down by Satan for eighteen years together, his compassions putting him upon it, he loosed her, though those that stood by snarled at him for so doing (Luke 13:11-13).

And why the woman of Sarepta, and why Naaman the Syrian, rather than widows and lepers of Israel, but because their conditions were more deplorable; for that they were most forlorn, and furthest from help (Luke 4:25,27).

But I say, why all these, thus named? Why have we not a catalogue of some holy men that were so in their own eyes, and in the judgment of the world? Alas! if, at any time, any of them are mentioned, how seemingly coldly doth the record of scripture present them to us? Nicodemus, a night professor, and Simon the Pharisee, with his fifty pence, and their great ignorance of the methods of grace, we have now and then touched upon.

Mercy seems to be out of its proper channel when it deals with self- righteous men; but then it runs with a full stream when it extends itself to the biggest sinners. As God’s mercy is not regulated by man’s goodness, nor obtained by man’s worthiness, so not much set out by saving of any such. But more of this anon.

And here let me ask my reader a question: Suppose that, as thou art walking by some pond side, thou shouldst espy in it four or five children, all in danger of drowning, and one in more danger than all the rest; judge which has most need to be helped out first? I know thou wilt say, he that is nearest drowning. Why, this is the case; the bigger sinner, the nearer drowning; therefore, the bigger sinner, the more need of mercy; yea, of help, by mercy, in the first place. And to this our text agrees, when it saith, ‘Beginning at Jerusalem.’ Let the Jerusalem sinner, says Christ, have the first offer, the first invitation, the first tender of my grace and mercy; for he is the biggest sinner, and so has most need thereof.

Second , Christ Jesus would have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners, because when they, any of them, receive it, it redounds most to the fame of his name .

Christ Jesus, as you may perceive, has put himself under the term of a physician, a doctor for curing of diseases; and you know that applause and fame are things that physicians much desire. That is it that helps them to patients; and that, also, that will help their patients to commit themselves to their skill, for cure, with the more confidence and repose of spirit. And the best way for a doctor or physician to get himself a name, is, in the first place, to take in hand, and cure, some such as all others have given up for lost and dead. Physicians get neither name nor fame by pricking of wheals,[10] or picking out thistles, or by laying of plasters to the scratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, if they will have it quickly, they must, as I said, do some great and desperate cures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead; let them recover one to his wits that was mad; let them make one that was born blind to see; or let them give ripe wits to a fool: these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, and if he doth thus first, he shall have the name and fame he desires; he may lie a-bed till noon.

Why, Christ Jesus forgiveth sins for a name, and so begets for himself a good report in the hearts of the children of men. And, therefore, in reason he must be willing, as, also, he did command, that his mercy should be offered first to the biggest sinners. I will forgive their sins, iniquities, and transgressions, says he, ‘And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour, before all the nations of the earth’ (Jer 33:8,9).

And hence it is, that, at his first appearing, he took upon him to do such mighty works; he got a fame thereby, he got a name thereby (Matt 4:23,24).

When Christ had cast the legion of devils out of the man of whom you read (Mark 5), he bid him go home to his friends, and tell it. ‘Go home,’ saith he, ‘to thy friends, and tell them how great things God hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee’ (Mark 5:19). Christ Jesus seeks a name, and desireth a fame in the world; and, therefore, or the better to obtain that, he commands that mercy should first be proffered to the biggest sinners; because, by the saving of one of them, he makes all men marvel. As it is said of the man last mentioned, whom Christ cured towards the beginning of his ministry. ‘And he departed,’ says the text, ‘and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; and all men did marvel’ (Mark 5:20).

When John told Christ, that they saw one casting out devils in his name, and they forbade him, because he followed not with them, what is the answer of Christ? ‘Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me’ (Mark 9:39). No; they will rather cause his praise to be heard, and his name to be magnified, and so put glory on the head of Christ.

But we will follow, a little, our metaphor. Christ, as I said, has put himself under the term of a physician; consequently, he desireth that his fame, as to the salvation of sinners, may spread abroad, that the world may see what he can do. And to this end, has not only commanded that the biggest sinners should have the first offer of his mercy, but has, as physicians do,[11] put out his bills, and published his doings, that things may be read and talked of. Yea, he has, moreover, in these, his blessed bills, the holy scriptures I mean, inserted the very names of persons, the places of their abode, and the great cures that, by the means of his salvation, he has wrought upon them to this very end. Here is, Item , such an one, by my grace and redeeming blood, was made a monument of everlasting life; and such an one, by my perfect obedience, became an heir of glory. And then he produceth their names. Item , I saved Lot from the guilt and damnation that he had procured for himself by his incest. Item , I saved David from the vengeance that belonged to him for committing of adultery and murder. Here is, also, Solomon, Manasseh, Peter, Magdalene, and many others, made mention of in this book. Yea, here are their names, their sins, and their salvations recorded together, that you may read and know what a Saviour he is, and do him honour in the world. For why are these things thus recorded, but to show to sinners what he can do, to the praise and glory of his grace? And it is observable, as I said before, we have but very little of the salvation of little sinners mentioned in God’s book, because that would not have answered the design, to wit, to bring glory and fame to the name of the Son of God.

What should be the reason, think you, why Christ should so easily take a denial of the great ones that were the grandeur of the world, and struggle so hard for hedge-creepers[12] and highwaymen, as that parable seems to import he doth, but to show forth the riches of the glory of his grace, to his praise? (Luke 14). This, I say, is one reason, to be sure. They that had their grounds, their yoke of oxen, and their marriage joys, were invited to come; but they made the excuse, and that served the turn. But when he comes to deal with the worst, he saith to his servants, Go ye out and bring them in hither. ‘Go out quickly – and bring in hither the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind.’ And they did so. And he said again, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled’ (Luke 14:18,19,23). These poor, lame, maimed, blind, hedge-creepers, and highwaymen, must come in, must be forced in. These, if saved, will make his merit shine.

When Christ was crucified, and hanged up between the earth and heavens, there were two thieves crucified with him; and, behold, he lays hold of one of them, and will have him away with him to glory. Was not this a strange act, and a display of unthought-of grace? Were there none but thieves there, or were the rest of that company out of his reach? Could he not, think you, have stooped from the cross to the ground, and have laid hold on some honester man, if he would? Yes, doubtless. Oh! but then he would not have displayed his grace, nor so have pursued his own designs, namely, to get to himself a praise and a name; but now he has done it to purpose. For who that shall read this story, but must confess, that the Son of God is full of grace; for a proof of the riches thereof, he left behind him, when, upon the cross, he took the thief away with him to glory. Nor can this one act of his be buried; it will be talked of, to the end of the world, to his praise. ‘Men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts; and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness – They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom’ (Psa 145:6-12).

When the Word of God came among the conjurors and those soothsayers, that you read of (Acts 19), and had prevailed with some of them to accept of the grace of Christ, the Holy Ghost records it with a boast, for that it would redound to his praise, saying, ‘Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men ; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed’ (Acts 19:19,20). It wrenched out of the clutches of Satan some of those of whom he thought himself most sure. ‘So mightily grew the Word of God.’ It grew mightily, it encroached upon the kingdom of the devil. It pursued him, and took the prey; it forced him to let go his hold! It brought away captive, as prisoners taken by force of arms, some of the most valiant of his army. It fetched back from, as it were, the confines of hell, some of those that were his most trusty, and that, with hell, had been at an agreement. It made them come and confess their deeds, and burn their books before all men. ‘So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed.’ Thus, therefore, you see why Christ will have offered mercy, in the first place, to the biggest sinners; they have most need thereof; and this is the most ready way to extol his name ‘that rideth upon the heavens’ to our help.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

By Dave Jenkins.

In part 1 we learned what it means to engage worldviews. In part 2 we learned about Paul’s use and methods in Apologetics, and today we conclude our series on Apologetics by learning about the use of Apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel.

I read this excellent article and I wanted to share it. It seems like many apologists online are forgetting the power of the gospel. They are excited to engage the world with apologetics but seemly minimize the gospel. Now, none of them would say so because to do that is to admit a direct dependence upon the flesh; nevertheless, these new apologist are inching away from scripture toward dependence upon intellectual acumen. This article is a blessing and I hope you find it to be a good instructive.

The use of apologetics in preaching and teaching the Gospel

Dr. Mohler President of The Southern Baptist Theology defines apologetics as the task of setting forth the truth claims of Christianity and arguing for the unique truthfulness of the Christian faith- must inform every preacher’s understanding of his task in a postmodern age.[i]

Acts 17:16-34 serves as a model of Great Commission proclamation matched to an apologetic argument-an argument in defense of Christian truth. In that passage Paul is standing at the center of apologetic ministry in the first century- Athens. Athens was the most intellectually sophisticated culture in the ancient world, but its glory was retreating. Even though Rome held political and military preeminence, Athens stood supreme in terms of cultural and intellectual influence. The centerpiece of Paul’s visit to Athens is his message to the court of philosophers at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill. Several principles as it relates to preaching and apologetics become evident in considering Acts 17:16-34.

First, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins in a provoked spirit (Acts 17:16). Paul observed the spiritual confusion of the Athenians and was overcome with concern. The sight of a city full of idols seized him with grief, and that grief turned to gospel proclamation. Paul records that Paul experienced paroxysmos, a paroxysm, at the sight of such spiritual confusion. Athens was intellectually sophisticated- the arena where the ancient world’s most famous philosophers had debated. This was the city of Pericles, Plato, and Socrates, but Paul was not impressed with the faded glory of this city. He saw men and women in need of a Savior.

This text reminds us that the proper view of Christian apologetics begins in spiritual concern, not in intellectual snobbery of scorn. Christians preach Christ not because Christianity is merely a superior philosophy or worldview, nor because we have been smart enough to embrace the gospel, but because we have met the Savior, we have been claimed by the gospel, and we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Christians preaching is not a matter of intellectual pride but of spiritual concern. A dying world languishes in spiritual confusion.

America is a nation filled with idols of self-realization, material comfort, psychological salvation, sexual ecstasy, ambition, power and success. New Age spiritualties in a quest for personal fulfillment and self-transcendence. The ancient paganisms of nature worship have emerged once again, along with esoteric and occult practices. Journalist Walter Truett Anderson observes, Never before has any civilization made available to its populace such a smorgasbord of realities. Never before has a communications system like the contemporary mass media made information about religion-all religions-available to so many people. Never has a society allowed its people to become consumers of belief, and allowed belief-all beliefs- to become merchandise.[ii]

America has become too acculturated, too blind, and too unimpressed with the paganism and idolatries all around us. As Christians, we betray a comfort level that Paul would see as scandalous. Instead of this, Christians should be gripped by the realization that millions of men and women are slaves to the idols of our age, and learn to have the courage to confront the idols all around them.

Second, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is focused on gospel proclamation (Acts 17:17). Moved by the city full of idols, Paul went to the synagogue and to the marketplace each day, presenting the claims of Christ and reasoning with both Jews and Gentiles. The goal of apologetic preaching is not to win an argument but to win souls to Christ. Apologetics separated from evangelism is unknown in the New Testament, and is foreign to the model offered by the apostle Paul. The great missionary Paul was about the business of preaching the gospel, presenting the claims of Christ, and calling for men and women to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

For many evangelicals the study of apologetics is reduced to philosophical structures and rational arguments. This is not Paul’s method. Paul is not merely concerned with the justification of truth claims, but for the justification of sinners. Every true theologian is an evangelist, and every true evangelist is a theologian. The Gospel possesses content and presents truth claims that demand the preachers keenest arguments and boldest proclamation. The Gospel is to be received. Paul moved by the sight of idols preached Christ and called for belief.

Third, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture assumes a context of spiritual confusion (Acts 17:18-21). Paul’s gospel proclamation brought confusion to the Athenian intellectuals. The Epicureans, the forerunners of modern secularists, and the Stoics, committed to pantheistic rationalism accused Paul of teaching nonsense.

To the Athenians- and to the modern secular America- the preaching of the authentic gospel sounds strange. The Athenians said, “You are bringing some strange thing to our ears.” The Christian preacher hears the same thing today. In postmodern American, the Christian gospel is strange in its whole and in its parts. Most Americans assume themselves to be good and decent persons, and are amused at the notions that they are sinners against God. Grace is alien concept in American culture. Sin is almost outlawed as a category, substitutionary atonement sounds unfair, and God in human flesh is too much to take. Yet that is what Christians preach.

The Athenians and their tourists loved to spend their time telling or hearing something new- but what Paul preached was too much. Americans today are just like the Athenians. Consumers of meaning just as much as they are of cars and clothing, Americans will test-drive new spiritualties and try on a whole series of lifestyles. To many, the gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, and too exclusive. To contend for the gospel and biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for “hate speech.” The Christian must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is often now a hostile confusion. The Gospel sounds not only strange but threatening to the local deities.

Fourth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture is directed to a spiritual hunger (Acts 17:22-23). Paul’s observation convinced him that the Athenians were a religious people. A deficit of religiosity was not the problem. Judging from the statue Paul noticed, the Athenians seemed to be fearful lest they miss any new philosophy or neglect any unknown deity.

American culture is increasingly secularist. The past century has seen the agenda of secularism accomplished in the courts, in the schools, in the marketplace, and in the media. Yet Americas are among the most religious people in the world. The emptiness of the secular wasteland haunts most postmodern persons. They long for something more. Many people declare themselves to live by scientific rationality, and yet they read the astrology charts, believe in alien abductions, line up to see bleeding statues, and talk about past lives. In America, even some atheists say they believe in miracles. Sociologist Robert Wunthnow suggests that Americans are particularly fascinated with miraculous manifestations of the sacred because they are uncertain whether the sacred has really gone away.[iii]

Paul had taken account of the plentiful idols and houses of worship found in Athens. He even noted they were hedging their bets, lest they offend some deity who had not made themselves known. Paul seized the opportunity. Brought before the court at the Areopagus, he referred to the altar he had seen that was dedicated to an unknown god.

The example of Paul here ought to establish a pattern for Christian preaching in a postmodern age. Christians must seek constantly to turn spiritual hunger toward the true food of the gospel of Christ. God had placed that hunger within lost persons they might desire Christ. Christians bear the stewardship of proclaiming the gospel, and therefore we must muster the courage to confront confused postmodernists with the reality of their spiritual ignorance. Paul never allowed this ignorance to become an excuse, but there can be no doubt that it is a reality. Americans, too, are feeding on a false diet of superstition and myths. The hunger is a place to start. Our challenge is to preach Christ as the only answer to that hunger.

Fifth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture begins with the fundamental issue of God’s nature, character, power and authority (Acts 17:24-28). Interestingly, Paul does not begin with Christ and the cross but with the knowledge of God in creation. The do who created the world is not looking for Corinthian columns and the Parthenon, Paul argued. The Lord does not dwell in temples made with human hands. The Lord is the author of life itself, and He needs nothing from us. Furthermore, The Lord had made humanity and is Lord over all nations. The Lord sovereignly determines their times and boundaries. The Athenians were partly right, said Paul, quoting their poets. All human beings are God’s children, but not in the sense the Athenians believed. In proclaiming God as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things and all peoples, Paul was making a claim that far surpassed the claims of the Hellenistic deities.

Paul established his preaching of Christ upon the larger foundation of the knowledge of the God of the Bible, Maker of heaven and earth. Every preacher of the Gospel must structure their proclamation of the gospel in this postmodern culture just as Paul did. People must first understand God the Creator before they will understand God the Redeemer.

John Calvin organized his systematic theology around what he called the duplex cognito Domini, the twofold knowledge of God. The preacher must start with the knowledge of God as Creator, but this is not sufficient to save.  John Calvin notes that it is one thing to feel that God our Maker supports us by his power, governs us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and attends us with all sorts of blessings, and another thing to embrace the reconciliation offered us in Christ. Seeing people come to faith in Christ the Redeemer begins with seeing them come to grips with the fact that God is their Maker.[iv]

Sixth, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture confronts error (Acts 17:29). Preaching, apologetics, and polemics are all related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: Preachers ought never to not think false thoughts about God. The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”

False theologies abound no less in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God- the so called Gai Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment. Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.

Seventh, Christian proclamation in a postmodern culture affirms the totality of God’s saving purpose (Acts 17:30-31). Paul brought his presentation of the gospel to a climatic conclusion by calling for repentance and warning of the judgment that is to come. He proclaimed Christ as the appointed Savior who will judge the world and whose identity has been clearly revealed by the fact that God has raised him from the dead.

It is not enough to preach Christ without calling for belief and repentance. It is not enough to promise the blessings of heaven without warning of the threat of hell. It is not enough to preach salvation without pointing to judgment.

Conclusion

Authentic Christian preaching both declares and defends the whole gospel. The center of the Christians proclamation is Jesus Christ the Savior, who was crucified for sinners, was raised by the power of God, is coming again in glory and in judgment, and is even now sitting and ruling at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christians must defend the truths of Christ’s deity, the virgin birth, the historicity of the miracles, the truth of the incarnation, the reality of His substitutionary death, and the assurance of His bodily resurrection. Yet Christians dare not stop at these affirmations, for we must place the person and work of Christ within the context of God’s eternal purpose to save a people for His own glory and to exalt himself among the nations. The task of preaching in this postmodern context is comprehensive, even as it is driven by the desire to see sinners turn to Christ in faith.

The postmodern world has no need of half evangelists preaching a half gospel to the half converted, and leading a halfhearted church. What is needed is a generation of bold and courageous preacher-apologists for the twenty-first century- men who will be witnesses to the whole world of the power of the gospel and who will proclaim the whole counsel of God.

[i] R. Albert Mohler, He is not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 123-124.

[ii] Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn’t What It Used to Be (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990), 188.

[iii] Robert Wuthnow: After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2005), 139.

[iv] John Calvin, Institutes, McNeill and Battles, vol. 1, 40.

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.8q1t0PsW.dpuf

– See more at: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/05/24/the-use-of-apologetics-in-preaching-and-teaching-the-gospel/#sthash.t4eZc5pP.dpuf