Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Law”

There’s No Such Thing As Karma, But You Can Thank God For Grace

Dear children,

You will discover, if you are paying much attention, that most people’s morality is based on personal preferences.  If I prefer that this thing I like to do is not immoral, then it is not immoral… for me… or so the thinking goes.   There is a name for this mindset.  It’s called “relativism”.  Good and evil are seen as relative to the individual.  So you will hear it said that what is moral for you may not be moral for me, and vice versa.  Relativism, therefore, does two things for man.  First, it works to align his conscience with his sin.  Second, it allows him to judge harshly anyone who would dare look at his sin in light of absolutes.  But in order to actually live this way violence must be done to rational thought.  We can’t on the one band say morality is relative to the individual, and then, on the other hand, hold  another individual, who say breaks into our house and steals our TV, to our own standards.   When we are the victims of evil, our relativism collapses.  Reality collides with us because morality is not personal, it is absolute.  But few people think that deeply about their worldviews.  I pray that you, dear children, would be more attentive to how you order your lives than that.  There is a law, “do not steal”, and there is a law-giver who commands us not to do it.

What we witness with relativism then is a thing called “cognitive dissonance”.  Cognitive means to think, and dissonance means  disharmony.  So cognitive dissonance simply means disharmony of thought.  If I think that A is right and that A is wrong, then my thinking would not be in harmony with itself.  If I claim that what is right for me is not necessarily right for you, I can’t then turn around and say that it is wrong for you to torture and kill my baby; again, to do so would be disharmony of thought.

I say all of this as a foundation from which to approach the foolishness of a word that has become popular in our modern vernacular: “Karma”.  Karma is a term with its roots in Eastern religions.  It is based on reincarnation and the thinking goes something like this:  Suppose that you are a wealthy Hindu living in India and you notice that across town there are many horribly poor people.  Karma allows you to ignore their plight by telling yourself that they are simply working off “Karma, or in other words, bad deeds from a previous life.  You, even though you have no recollection of your own deeds prior to your birth, now have a good life because of those deeds.  That is the origins of Karma anyway… somewhat.

But when you encounter the word it will be a westernized version of it.  When you hear someone attribute some poor soul’s misfortune to Karma, it will generally be considered payback for something they did in this life.  So if I steal your car, and I am maimed in a bad wreck while driving it to my house, someone might simply utter the word “Karma” to point out that I got what I deserved.  But to attribute a thing to Karma, we need to ask ourselves some questions.  First, who is administering this Karma?  Is it a personal being?  A force?  A deity?  And if we do live under the threat of payback from this entity, then where do we go to learn what is absolutely right and wrong so that we might escape its wrath?

You can see, I hope, the cognitive dissonance wrapped up in Karma.  First, it assumes absolutes, which is to say that it assumes that there is ultimate good and evil that apply to all people in all times, and which must be adhered to in order to escape bad things happening to us in return for our evil.  If that is true, then who among the living has lived perfectly enough to not deserve a little Karma?  Can anyone believe, if something bad happens, that there is not one person out there somewhere in a position to gloat and attribute our misfortune to “Karma”?  Has anyone lived that righteously?  I sure haven’t.  I shudder to think.  And you can be sure that no one else has either.

But listen to me children.  There is a sense in which our westernized idea of “Karma” has merit.  The Bible says that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  This means that we live in a world that is sinful, and with the fall of man in the Garden, it was not only sin that entered the world, bad things entered the world, lots of bad things.  We have sickness, death, violence, destruction and so on, all because of man’s sinful nature.  But we are not left to guess what we must do to escape God’s wrath.  It’s quite simple really.  We must keep God’s law perfectly.  So have you ever lied or stolen?  Sorry, too late.  You have broken God’s law.  So now what?  Karma?  Well yes, if, and it is a major if, there was no Gospel.  But praise God, there is good news!!!

Karma is a concoction of man who sees himself as the final arbiter of good and evil.  And know this: man never sees his own sin in the same light that he sees the sins of others.  That is true for you too children, and you need to be aware of it when grace and forgiveness are in order in response to an offense.  But while man tends to give himself a pass for his own evil, he is quick to see Karma as payback for others.  But God is different.  Jesus had this to say about our situation:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:18-20)

Jesus says that we are all deserving of “Karma”.  He goes on to say that we can expect something much worse.  He says in fact that we are all condemned.  A good analogy of His point in this passage is that no one goes to a prison to find people to put into prison.  They are already there!  He makes the point that, in the same way, He did not come to condemn.  We are already condemned.  No, he came to set men free from prison, even though we deserve to be there.  That, my children, is grace, not Karma.  Karma is the opposite.  It gloats with a sense of self righteousness. But those who gloat easily overlook the reasons they themselves deserve Karma, which could, if it were real, justly punish any of us at anytime.

So, in conclusion, let me recap.  The idea of Karma depends on law.  Law depends on a law-giver.  Punishment depends on a punisher.  Your culture rejects both the law and the law giver, so it embraces disharmony of thought when it says,  A) that there is no law or law giver and B) Karma is punishment by some entity for breaking law.  But the Bible says that there is not only law, but a law giver.  It also says that all deserve punishment for breaking the law, every last one.  But it shows us the way to be saved from the punishment that the law giver requires.  It shows us grace.  It gives us good news!  And it is Good News indeed!

Dear children, I would that you think about things.  Don’t buy into the silly dissonant notions that this sinful culture throws around thoughtlessly.  I pray that god would give you the blessing of discernment, so that you may be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, folly and a sound mind.

Your father

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Legalism, God’s Law, And Confusion

Dear children,

I do so desire that confusion not plague your lives in Christ.  And one thing that seems to have wrought a fair amount of confusion in this current age is a misunderstanding of legalism.  The confusion revolving around legalism is twofold and  involves both an increasingly doctrine-adverse Church and a culture that is becoming thoroughly intolerant of moral absolutes.  Each seems to feed off the other as God’s law becomes ever increasingly hated in the culture and shunned within church congregations and among their leaders under the guise of avoiding legalism.  And while legalism is a bad thing, the definition of it is being turned on its head with the effect of more and more people in and out of the Church living according to what is right in their own eyes.  To point to God’s Word and suggest that God has a law designed to restrain evil is now met with charges of legalism.  But it’s not legalism.  God has already determined what is right and wrong, so we don’t get to now change that.  Also, appealing to God’s law to determine right from wrong, and legalism are two different things.

So first let us start with my first premise by pointing to a fundamental doctrine.  Good doctrine, by the way, helps us to steer clear of error and confusion so it’s always a good starting point when confronting confusion.  So, in order to work through reconciling “God’s law” with “God’s grace” let us start with the doctrine of “God’s sovereignty” which teaches that there is absolutely nothing that man can do to save himself.  Legalism, on the other hand says that there is not only something that man can do, but there is something he must do, to be saved.  But the Bible does not teach that no more than it teaches that grace is a licence to abandon God’s law.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty teaches that our salvation is totally God’s doing.   Paul gave us the reason for this.  It was so that “no man may boast”.

So to help us think through this let us ponder a little question.  “Why should God let you into heaven when you die”?  The answer to that question cannot use the word “I”, not even once, because to use the word “I” means that did something.  And if did something, even a tiny little itty bitty thing, then have reason to boast before my fellow man and before God.  And God will not have that.  If the evangelist knocks on your door, for example, and presents the Gospel to you, and you understand it and repent, and after he leaves your house he goes to your neighbor’s house and presents him with the same message, and he rejects it, what is the difference between you and your neighbor?  Were you smarter than him?  Wiser?  More open-minded?  If so, you have a reason to boast.  But scripture is clear that  no man has reason to boast.  This truth is our starting point for everything.  Our salvation is a work of God, begun while we were still living in rebellion.

Secondly, it only stands to reason that if there was anything at all, no matter how small, that you could do to receive the Gospel, then there is also something that you could do to lose the Gospel.  Again, not possible.  It is by God’s will that you are saved, and not by your own will, not even a molecule-sized piece of it.  So if there is nothing you could have done to gain your salvation, then there is no law that you could break once you’re saved to lose your salvation.  So three things to consider here: 1) To earn your salvation through your own works is legalism. 2) To keep your salvation through obeying God’s law is also legalism. 3) God’s law still exists.

Even though we know that no righteousness on our part can earn us salvation, it’s still a good thing to desire to live righteously, and the Bible teaches as much.  And to desire to live righteously requires a desire to know what righteousness is.  That knowledge comes from God’s law, without which righteousness would become subjective and worldly.  It would simply mean doing what is right in our own eyes.  We are experiencing that all around in this age.  Keep in mind also that any righteousness we attain comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, which is a free gift from God.  It is not you, but Christ in you.  We can thank God for that, and indeed thankfulness and praise is the only appropriate response.

You need to make peace with the fact that you will never keep the law. It can no more be done than being the perfect child, or the perfect father.  But the desire to be good children, or good parents, is not thwarted by our failures, nor does it change the fact that we are children and parents.

For now I love you and I am praying that you will continue to fix your eyes on Jesus, casting off every sin that entangles you, and running with perseverance the race before you.

Your father

Love God

Dear children

I  can sum up every thing I want to say to you in these letters by simply repeating the greatest command: Love God.  Those two words, as simple as they are on the surface, will require your entire life to unpack, and perhaps even an eternity for all I know.  So here are a few things to think about concerning this simple challenge.

1. Don’t get things turned around.  Jesus said if you love me you will follow my commandments.  Some get this turned around and hear “you love me because you follow my commandments”.  Love God first, then following God’s commandments will flow from the Spirit.  If you simply attempt to will yourself to follow rules and rudiments, splitting hairs on what you can do in order to not cross a line into what you can’t, then you will be acting in the flesh.  Studying the law in order to live a hair’s width inside of it is not loving God, and it doesn’t lead to following God’s commands either.  When this is your mindset, you are not keeping the greatest commandment.

2. Pray.  Ask God to put in your heart ever more love for Him.  Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is not a natural thing, and so we are not, in our fleshy selves, inclined to do it.  Loving God is a spiritual thing, and God is capable of giving  you love for himself based on His grace.  Once you love Him, living your life free from sin will be easier, though not easy.  But don’t let the “not easy” dissuade you.  No direction that you take in your life will be an easy one, even if you decide to reject God and live in rebellion.  If it looks easy, or it promises ease, you can know that Satan is involved somewhere.

3. Read the scriptures.  As God, by His grace, puts a love for Himself in your heart, you will also love the scriptures.  As you love the scriptures you will find that they will increasingly become an anchor for you in a world that seems bent on going mad.  You will find, as your knowledge of God through the scriptures increases, that your Biblical worldview will at the same time grow stronger.  This will make you wise beyond your years, and it will guide you in avoiding much anguish and many tears, though not all anguish and tears.

4. Fight.  Paul, an apostle, and the one who physically penned much of the New Testament, said at the end of his life “I have fought the good fight”.  The love of God is worth fighting for, and your foe will be your own self and your carnal desires which lead to death.  What ever it takes therefor dear children, fight the good fight and love God.

5. Choose friends wisely.  They will help you fight the good fight, and you will help them.  The love of God is contagious.  Time spent among a body of believers that loves God will encourage you to love God all the more, and you will likewise encourage others.  But those in your inner circle will in many ways determine who you become.  Choose friends who challenge you, in how they live, and who also love you enough to challenge you personally by holding you accountable.

6. Be discerning.  As you know, I love doctrine.  I think doctrine is important to the extreme.  But I don’t like doctrine worship.  I am not drawn to those whose love for God has grown cold, but they can cite doctrine like a lawyer.  More likely than not, however, in this current culture you will encounter the other side of that extreme.  There are those who know a few verses, which by themselves can appeal to the man-centered heart, but who are otherwise ignorant of God and His Word.  You will know these because they will be repulsed by the teaching of doctrine and drawn to emotional experiences.  The love of self in these is confused with the love of God.  God is “loved” because He sees “what a special person I am, and He promises to give me lots of stuff and heal me when I am sick.”  Often these people’s lives will be in a perpetual state of turmoil because they lack discernment and wisdom because they lack proper doctrine.

7. Love others.  Everyone, you will find, is living somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes.  Do the best you can to love them all and to help them where they are weak as they help you.  Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask Him to give you discernment.  You will need it!

8.  And finally, seek to understand deeply the meaning of that word “love”.  It does not mean what this world says it means.  Search the scriptures so that you might gain clarity concerning this word.

Your mother and I remind each other daily of our number one desire for you.  It is a desire that surpasses every other  including your education and how well you make it in your life financially, both of which are prevailing idols of this age.  We desire more than anything else that you would love God with all of your heart mind soul and strength.  We have desired it also for ourselves and before we were even married set that goal, as much as we were able, as the foundation of what our lives would be about.  As you have noticed, we have failed, but the goal is still there.  Pray for us dear children as we pray for you that indeed our God would become the love of our lives in ever deeper ways.

Your father

 

 

God’s Law Is Profitable

Dear children,

You were born into a age in which the society and the Church of God has become thoroughly antinomian.  That is to say that it has become anti-God’s law.  We can see that the worldly are bold in their rejection of God’s law.  We can also see that the majority of Christians have become uncomfortable, or perhaps embarrassed even, concerning the subject of God’s law.   It should not surprise us that those who don’t recognize Jehovah’s sovereignty in this world would reject His laws.  But that Christianity would reject it also should at the least strike us as odd.  That rejection can likely be blamed on a misunderstanding of the concepts that undergird key words like grace, love, justice and mercy.

Using myself as an example, the vast majority of my Christian life was one confused on this matter in particular.  I lived in a world in which God’s law had been repealed, and yet I was still not free to sin any old way I wished.  I learned later that there is a name for such thinking.  It is called “cognitive dissonance”, which is what happens when one holds two opposing views as true.  We can detect a resistance to God’s law in our expressions.  There is an almost knee jerk repulsion against “bringing back the law”, when there is an appeal to the fact that that law exists.  There are accusations of “attempting to put people under the law again” that are quite common when issues of morality are discussed.  But at the same time these same Christians rightly have no problem calling idolatry, adultery, murder, all of which are based on law, sin.  You see?  Cognitive dissonance.  The vast majority of your true brothers and sisters in Christ will at some level be confused on this matter.  I hope, however, to bring a little clarity for you in this letter.

Let me start by assuring you that God’s law is profitable.  It does every human being, fallen or redeemed, good.  A society that sets its morals on God’s law will be more safe and prosperous.  Therefore, in order to love your neighbor as yourself you will want to, as much as it is up to you, encourage the enactment of God’s laws.  Will it bring about a utopia?  Of course not.  Man is fallen.  There are no Utopias.

God’s law is profitable in 3 ways:

God’s law Tutors, Reveals, Mirrors

The New American Standard Version uses the word “tutor” to describe God’s law.  The King James Version uses “schoolmaster”.

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. (Gal 3:24-25)

If God never commanded that I not covet my neighbor’s things then I would not know that is was sinful to do such things, even though it would still be sinful.  But God did command, and His law ever points at my fallen nature by revealing to me God’s righteous standards and my failure to live accordingly.  But this is where the power of the Gospel is revealed.  The law teaches that man is fallen and rightly deserves God’s wrath.  But rather than pour that wrath out on us, God instead sent His Son to die on the cross in the behalf of those who put their faith in Him.  The more we grasp God’s law, and our inability to live according to it, the more we grasp the glory of the cross.  How can anyone meditate on such things and not be moved into praise, thanksgiving, and the worship of our glorious God?  Meditate on such things.  You must seek to grasp this lest the redemption that occurred on that cross become dull and small.  It was by no means anything but glorious.

God’s law restrains evil

The word “civil” is based on law.  Civil societies have laws and civil people obey those laws and their is a process in dealing with those who do not.  Civilizations punish law breakers.  This is justice, but it also is a deterrent to others whose passions might rise up against their neighbors. When a civilization stops punishing lawbreakers, it begins a slide toward incivility. (For more on this be sure to read Romans chapter 13.)  You will live your life in such an age I am sorry to say.  Idolatry is embraced. Babies in the womb are murdered with the law’s permission, and increasingly so, so are the aged and sick.  Marriage is no longer sacred.  Private property is legally stolen through excessive taxation.  Lying is acceptable to justify Godless ends.  Covetousness is embraced, preached and glorified.

There is a well-known proverb, “Without vision the people perish“.   It is stated in other versions as “without vision the people cast off restraint.”  The understanding of the word “vision” in this proverb has morphed.  But if we read it as simply “vision”, the ability to see, and consider the context, its true meaning will emerge.  That context is in the next line.  It continues with “But happy is he who keeps the law“.  If we can’t see God’s law our society will cast off restraint and end up perishing.  But if we see God’s law, and restrain evil, we will be happy.  Evil and lawless societies are not happy societies.  But wicked men not only cannot understand that God’s law provides the best society, he will not.  The answer will always be to enact more godless laws to patch up the problems caused by Godless laws, which makes everyone even more unhappy and desirous of even more laws.  Scripture warns us about this.  It tells us that God turns such over to their own foolishness:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.  (Rom 1:28-32)

God’s law shows us how we may please our heavenly Father

Man often asks the question,  “How should we live?”  God’s law answers that question.  You, my dear children, know that your obedience pleases me, just as your children’s obedience will please you.  In the same way we are not left here by God not knowing how to live.  God shows us in His Word how we are to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.  But in many ways this is the source of the confusion concerning God’s laws because the line between love and obedience is blurred.  If you, my children, obeyed me to the letter but did not love me, your obedience would not be pleasing to me.  And in the same way, if you loved me more than anything else in this world and yet rejected my authority, that would not be pleasing either.  But both of these examples are absurd for if you didn’t love me you would not be obedient and if  you were not obedient you would not love me.  And, along those same lines, if you do disobey me you do not lose my love, nor are you happy with yourself that you disobeyed because you do still love me.   From this example we can begin to understand what Jesus meant when he said “If you love me you will keep my commandments”.  (John 14:15)

There is so much more to say on this matter.  Perhaps this is just an introduction to give you reason to seek more knowledge, wisdom and understanding concerning God’s law in an age of lawlessness.  I pray that God would richly bless you in this endeavor as you learn more and more about the beauty of the cross, God’s loving restraint of evil in this world for His children, and how you might grow in obedience to your Heavenly Father.

Your father.

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