Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Worldliness”

A Familiar Story Of Apostatizing Youth

Dear children,

As you might imagine I am keenly interested in any advice that would help me to help you develop a stronger faith.  So when I see an article entitled 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church, it gets my attention.  It is but one of many appropriate articles that express concern at the number of today’s youth who are abandoning their Christian faith when they leave home.  But what caught my attention, and what I would like to discuss in this letter, was a comment left by a young woman, fresh from her parent’s home herself, who explained why she abandoned her “faith”.  The first half:

These articles keep popping up all over the place in my feed and I find it so interesting. You see I am one of those kids. I am one that was raised in a very Christian home and now am definitely not a believer. I was very involved in my church. I sang up front many many sundays. I helped out in the nursery. My entire social life was wrapped around the church. That was all I knew. I loved God. I read the Bible cover to cover many many times. I prayed fervently on the constant. I witnessed to those around me. I published a Christian girl’s online magazine/newsletter. I served at the nursing home about once a month. I went to Africa with the Jesus Film. I was the definition of “youth that don’t leave the church.” You say it’s not a formula and yet you basically endorse it as if it is. 

As a father I can say that I would be encouraged by these things; encouraged yes, but not persuaded.  Your mother and I do the best we can to examine your hearts.  We don’t just assume that your conformity to the surroundings that we’ve immersed you in is evidence of a regenerated heart.  For all we know, a different environment will bring about a different conformity. We can see that this has been the case with this poor soul.

When she continues with her comment she transitions from herself as the topic to accusations against the Church.  She explains why not any of the external evidences that she manifested earlier mattered in the end:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked. I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity. I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore. I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics. I left because I had discovered what real love looked like. I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace….Instead of writing articles on why the youth are or aren’t leaving the church, why not just ask us? You may be really surprised at our answers. 🙂  

I’d like to respond to this part of her comment for your sake.  So let’s look at each statement individually.  She starts:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. 

Curiosity is a human trait. No one need deny it in order to be a Christian, nor does having more of it keep anyone from being a Christianity.  But we do begin to pick up on a veiled arrogance as we read this sentence in the context of the rest of the comment.  It is but an arrogant assumption that curiosity and Christianity are not compatible, which is an unsubstantiated assumption.  That arrogance will become more blatant as we continue with her comment.

 And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked.

You will hear this accusation often, but is it true?  Does “Christianity” really discourage the asking of questions?  While I can’t speak to her personal experience, I can speak to Christianity in general.  But before I do, I’d like to speak to her–unwitting I’m sure–sleight of hand in this statement.  She makes a general indictment against a very large, old and encompassing thing, Christianity.  And she bases it on a narrow and limited thing, her experience.  Where was her curiosity?  If she felt discouraged from asking questions in her limited experience, why didn’t she go elsewhere for answers?   She is, after all, living in the age of the internet, with lots of answers at her fingertips available to anyone with just a little bit of curiosity.  But man is a blame shifter by nature, and he is quick to shift blame from self to others, and I think that’s what’s happening here.  I’ve never been discouraged from asking questions.  That’s been my experience.  And I certainly haven’t discouraged you from asking them.  But even if I had been discouraged I would not have been thwarted, I have more curiosity than that.

But there is another side to this equation.  Some of the answers will necessarily be, “I don’t know.”, which is the truth.  And that is the rub for many I think.  There is so much that we don’t know.  But remember that this will be true regardless of whether you are an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever.  It is not as if this poor soul has moved into a system of thought that has all the answers.  We can know she hasn’t.  But as far as Christianity is concerned, God promises to save us from our sins.  He doesn’t promise to make us all knowing.

I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity.

Here I’m sure she has a point.  She herself was obviously not authentic.  But even had she been authentic, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity within the Church.  Jesus tells us that weeds are planted among the wheat.  So it should not have surprised her.  But even if she were surrounded by “wheat” only, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity.  This raises a serious question that demands an answer.  If others had looked at her life alone, and judged Christianity on it alone, would they have seen a “huge gap between Christianity and authenticity”?  I know the answer because I know humans.  The answer is yes, they would have seen a gap.  So have grace my dear children on your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  They are running a race and fighting the fight just as are you.  True authenticity is the admission to each other that we are not authentic.  The believer understands this.  The unbeliever can’t.

But I will chalk this up to her youth, which is naturally idealistic.  She will in time discover that no matter what she pursues, the lack of authenticity will be a part of it.  Even if she pursues lawlessness, she will still be inauthentic, because she will be offended when others steal from her, harm her, lie to her and so on.  Should she become an environmentalist, a secular humanist, an activist, it won’t matter.  She will still be in the midst of inauthenticity, and I can say this with the utmost confidence.  Why?  Because man is fallen.  He can’t be authentic in anything. There was only one authentic person to ever live, and she has rejected Him.  She will eventually have to either accept this fact, or shut down her curiosity altogether.  She will have to lie to herself, which might finally, after all, allow her to exist in an authentic, if unreal, world.  Man is most authentic when he is deceiving himself.

I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore.  I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics.

Given the rest of her comment this makes sense.  But it raises yet more questions.  What is real?  If she was so convinced all her life that Christianity was the real thing, and then it suddenly becomes unreal, what then?  How can she ever trust herself in judging “realness” again?  She will necessarily discover, with even a tiny bit of curiosity, that this lack of realness will follow her wherever she goes, unless, again, she deceives herself.  Christianity confronts the lack of realness head on.  It provides answers concerning our purpose, evil, pain and suffering.  That is real.  She won’t find these answers elsewhere.  At best she will only be able to expend herself attempting the impossible task of rebuilding Eden.  And she will fail like the millions who have attempted it before her.

I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace.

The vail has been removed now and she is revealing her true reason for leaving, which is that she hates God.  She hates Him because He is Sovereign, and she is at war with Him, hence no peace.  But most of all she hates Him because he is Just.  She, like all people, has broken God’s law.  She, like you and I, have lied, and stolen, and have hated–which Jesus equates to murder.  We are all guilty, and there is a just reward for us all in our guilt.  But God, in his love, sent his Son to die on the cross.  He has reconciled us to Him through His Son.  He has made peace with us.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  Sure, there is a measure of peace that can be found in living in self-deception.  Whistling in the dark can gain a measure of peace I suppose.  But it doesn’t change the reality that not only will she sin against those around her, those around her will sin against her.  And while her sin might not seem all that bad to her, we can know that the sin of others, who do not buy into her way of thinking, will steal back what peace she might muster, and then some.

I left because I had discovered what real love looked like.

This is arrogance completely unveiled.  Can she really believe that she, a young person in the 21st century, has figured something out that 2000 years of scholars, martyrs and devouts missed?  Evidently so, and there is the arrogance.  Those lovers of God would be in tears to “learn” that the whole thing has been nothing but a hoax, perpetrated on hundreds of millions of people over thousands of years.  But not her.  Oh no.  She’s smarter than all that, and in her thinking herself smarter, she exudes pride.  She knows what real love is, and all those who have gone before were fooled, lacking perhaps the curiosity to not be fooled.  They had no idea what real love was.

Her curiosity ought to have led her to the realization of her ignorance.  Real love was Jesus dying on the cross for those who hated God, and then reconciling them to Himself while they were in the very act of warring against Him.  That’s real love.  Real love has nothing to do with feelings.  It has nothing to do with what’s in it for me… like achieving a few temporary and fleeting warm and fuzzies.  Dear children, please understand, you do not want her “real love”.  The love of self, and how others, or things, make the “self” feel is often mistaken for love.  But in reality it is only self-centeredness.

 

So what do I, your father, think about this?  I think that she is the victim of her times.  You will notice that she rejected a religion, and not the Gospel.  It is a religion that preaches grace without justice.  And, “God loves you unconditionally”  is a religious message devoid of the Gospel, and devoid of a need for the Gospel.  But you will hear it preached time and again.  And it will be preached to unsaved people who are already convinced that God loves them.  And some of them, with a little more curiosity, will know that the threat of eternal Hell fires make the message of unconditional love seem ever so slightly… inauthentic. In fact it is this very thing that she is pointing to in her statement: “I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity.” 

You will live in a time that has confused social service and unreal love with the Gospel, which removes the power from Christianity and relegates it to just another religion.  The Gospel is key, but the Gospel is not about how great you are in God’s eyes, but rather about what a sorry state you are in, in God’s eyes.  That is an extremely unpopular message in this day.  But once you understand it, the Gospel, and grace, are beautiful; much too beautiful to trade in for a worldly counterfeit.

I came out of the world that this poor girl has fallen in love with.  I know what lies ahead for her and can only hope she will be “very curious” after all.  But for me, I will never forget the words of Peter in John 6.  Jesus had just preached what seemed to those present to be a bizarre message, that one must drink His blood, and eat His flesh to have eternal life.  Most abandoned Him on hearing this, but not His disciples.  After all were gone, Jesus looked at them and asked, “Are you going to leave Me too?”  Peter responded, “To whom shall we go?”   If this girl had received the Gospel, if she had understood justice, and then mercy, she would have asked the same question.  “To whom shall I go?”  She would have known that that question is the question of the ages.

I pray that God would arrest you.  That you would understand justice too, and then mercy.  I pray that you would understand, in the great scheme of things that extend outward, far beyond your being, what a great salvation the salvation offered us through the cross is.

Your father

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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

Encountering Secular Humanist Proselytizers

Dear children,

I once took nearly a half a year in meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses; almost every Saturday.  I understood their intentions.  They were trying to change my mind.  My intentions were exactly the same in the opposite direction.  As it turns out, Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained in the art of subverting faith.  That’s what they do best and they make no apologies for it.  IT is all above board in that regard.  This is not so with the secular humanist.  When you encounter him it will have an entirely different feel to it.  For one, nothing is above board.  Indeed the Secular Humanist proselytizer does not see himself as a proselytiser at all, and would reject any such suggestion outright.

You should realize that you will be living in a culture dominated by this “religion”,  Secular Humanism.  You could actually say that it is the state religion in that it is the mandatory view in the state school.  Most of the people you meet also, regardless of their political persuasions, will be thoroughly indoctrinated into this religion, or worldview.  And in keeping with the history of established religions, that is to say, “state religions”, it is wholly intolerant of opposing belief systems.

But Secular Humanism is different than other established religions in that it rejects the existence of a deity beyond man himself.  In this religion man is god, and as such would never view himself as one of those religious, zealot proselytizers.  Such words are pejoratives saved for “religious” religions.  So, unlike myself and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he will not knowingly be attempting to preach you out of your faith and into another, but rather he will see himself as simply convincing you to be normal… like him.

Man, as it turns out, must order his existence according to a framework of “truths” that have a source.  Find the source of a man’s “truth” and you will find the object of his faith.  As man orders his life around his “truths” he attempts to answer the larger questions of life concerning his purpose and eternal destiny.  The secular humanist looks to his own mind for those answers.  And since his mind lacks the knowledge to answer them, makes them up, then presents his make believe as “science”, into which he throws himself with blind faith.  But that does not stop him from resorting to ridiculing you about your faith.  No, he will be happy to do that.  What man, for example, can the secular humanist point to who has gone to the grave to observe what happens there and then returned to inform us?  No one of course.  That would be absurd.  So he must therefore resort to faith concerning our ultimate destiny beyond the grave.  And to console himself, he must convince all others to do the same.  His faith is that he lives in a materialistic naturalistic world and that he will simply cease to exist once his “machine” begins to decompose.  Or, even if there were an experience to be had beyond the grave, it would certainly not be one in which he will be held to account for any wrong he did in this life.  How does he know this?  Faith.

The idea of man’s accountability for the life he lived brings us to another question concerning guilt and righteousness.  The secular humanist will preach to you that you make up your own righteousness.  But you cannot do as he preaches for if you do you will be be persecuted and judged if your ideas of righteousness does not agree with his and his ilk.  Indeed, you must be an environmentalist, anti-religion–especially of the conservative Christian variety, you must approve of aberrant sexual behavior and and condone the murder of babies in the womb.  The “community” becomes the catch phrase.  You must fall in line with “the community’s” standards of righteousness or be considered wicked and evil.  But “the community” is just a front.  The real source of right and wrong are those who have the power to establish it.  In the end, might is the source of right in “the community”.  So, when the Secular Humanist is appealing to you, these are the things he is attempting to proselytise you into, and again, it won’t be because he knows it, but because you need to believe it.

So what about this guilt and forgiveness?  Well, in “the community” there is none.  Oh, they will tell you that you have no need to feel guilty for anything and that such feelings in themselves are sinful.  And that works well as far as your relationship with “the community” goes, just don’t ever disagree with it.  If you do you will realize very quickly that you actually can sin as a secular humanist.  Sure, you may repent of your sin and realign your thinking with “the community” I suppose.  But if you do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing dreadful things in the name of good.  The history of righteousness based on man’s best ideas is a history of evil deeds.

Lastly, you should realize that Secular Humanism comes to you with many labels not excluding the label “Christian”.  A “Christian” may come preaching and proselytising in an attempt to usurp your faith and lure you into his “religion”  And in the same way as all other Secular Humanists, this proselytiser will not be aware of what he is doing either. The humanist is easy to spot by his source of “truth”.  If it is man’s wisdom, and not God’s Word, he is trying to preach you into the City of Man.  The Secular Humanist will love certain Bible verses that align themselves with his sensibilities, but don’t be fooled.  He will reject anything that the community rejects.  They will not tolerate such thinking, nor can they.

It is important to realize also that as a Christian you ought not fit into this Secular Humanist society.  What you call evil this world will not call evil and what you call good this world will not call good.  What is normal for the secular humanist will not be normal for you.  You have a different source for truth.  So, let us go to our source, God’s Word, and see what He has to say about all of this.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:30 that “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  A little later in the same chapter he continues:   “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”  That word “good” raises an important question.  Does Man decide through brute power what is good and evil, or does God decree it through His law?

God says that man’s righteousness is as filthy rags.  He says that no man does good, no not one.  He says that man is lost and in need of salvation.  Paul had this to say about unsaved people as he spoke of their condition prior to salvation:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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— 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 2:2)

Here Paul paints a portrait of the Secular Humanist Man, who thinks that he is looking to himself for truth.  He will deny his condition even when his hands are drenched with his fellow man’s blood.  In the end, man without Christ is doomed.  But God, rich in His mercy, showed us a better way and provided for our salvation.  He promised us a renewed mind, a mind ordered and centered on Himself, His law, His righteousness and His love.  Unlike the City of Man, God’s yoke is not burdensome, but He promises a yoke that is light.  I therefore beseech you, dear children, to choose the narrow gate early, and to have faith in your God to walk along the narrow path that lies beyond.  Trials are a part of life, one way or the other, except that on the narrow path they are not in vain.

I pray that you would see the preachers and proselytisers that come your way for what they are.  I pray that you would see the pain and misery that their path will lead to in this life, and the eternal damnation that it leads to in the next.  May the eyes of your hearts be opened, and may a mantle of discernment rest on you.

Your father.

The Main Stream

Dear children,

We are all in this life faced with a choice between being in the so-called “mainstream” and not being there.  You will hear that word bandied about a lot in your life and when you do hear it, it will almost always be used in what is called a logical fallacy that argues in favor of something on the bases of “everyone else is doing it”.  So if you don’t either do it or agree with it being done then you’re not in the “mainstream”; and that’s suppose to be bad.  Unfortunately, this convinces many people to go with the flow, (pun intended) because it is only natural to want to fit in and be accepted.

But that word, “mainstream”, connotes a river flowing down hill.  It is flowing according to the course set by the happenstance of geography; and according to the least amount of resistance.  And it is flowing with great force.  Its flow might be temporarily impeded at times, as with a dam, but the river will overcome and destroy the impediment eventually. It is always only a matter of time.  In the middle of the river the current is strong and that is where the greatest mass of water exists and moves .  But then you have the water that is close to the edge that might be flowing slower, or perhaps almost not at all.  I think therefore that the word is quite accurate as it describe the masses of humanity.  I would also say that I do not want to be in the mainstream, nor do I think that that we are called by God to be there.  So let us go to the scriptures and see why.

Let us begin with one of my favorites which is Romans 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Rom 12:2)

Paul could have just as easily used the word “mainstream” instead of “world”, because in reality the main flow of this world is based on how the world thinks.  Our thinking is formulated.  We think about things according to a framework that is either installed by our culture, or by something else.  That framework is constructed of points of reference from which we make determinations and judgements.  Those who are in the middle of the river do not feel the current.  Their reference point is the water around them, which appears to be sitting still.  Rather it is the river’s edge that is moving.  But here God calls us to another set of reference points for our thinking.   He calls us to touch the bottom of the river, to stand up, and to begin our walk to the edge.  But as soon as we attempt to stand, the current becomes powerfully obvious.

We also have this gem in 1st John chapter 2:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.   (1 John 2:15-17)

John is also giving us a contrast between the mainstream and our walk with God.  Those in the mainstream love the mainstream.  They work hard to appeal to the thinking of the mainstream, with all of its lusts, and they are proud of the fact that they “fit in”, and they do not like those who don’t.  If you walk out your life with your feet on solid ground, that is, not being “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) you will experience the ere of this world.  But for me, being hated by the “mainstream” is comforting and assuring.  It is when I find myself in agreement with this world’s thinking that I become afraid.  And that is as it should be because Jesus warns us that the world first hated him and it will hate us also.  He also warns us to be concerned “when all men speak well of [us]” (Luke 6:26).

The idea of being called out of this world’s way of thinking, as it turns out, is not a New Testament idea.  We have God calling Noah out the world and into an ark that separated him and his family from the “mainstream”, which killed everyone. And again, we see God beginning the operation of redeeming His world by calling Abram out of the world as Abram knew it:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you...”  (Gen 12:1)

After God called Abram into his new life, he gave him a new name, Abraham, the progeny of which, many years later through providence, ended up in Egypt.  And then God called His children out of Egypt as well.

And then in the end of the scriptures we see again, as we read in the apocalyptic writing of Revelation, God commanding “His people” to “come out” of what might well be considered the “mainstream”:

“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”  I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. “  (Rev 18:3-6)

Remember that the mainstream flows downhill.  It does not war against its flesh, but on the contrary it embraces and celebrates it along with all of its carnal desires.  (Romans 1) Rather than war against the flesh, they war against those who do “war against their flesh”.  But man knows deep down all is not well.  He knows that he is in trouble.  So many attempt to console themselves beyond the approval of the masses by adopting the parts of the Christian religion they like.  They find consolation by extracting verses from scripture like the one that promises that God will remember our sins no more. (Heb 8:12)  But this promise is clearly only true for those who are hidden in Christ.  In this passage from Revelations, it is a downright terrifying thought that God “has remembered her iniquities”.

There is one passage that is perhaps the most explicit and poignant when it comes to calling people out of  the “mainstream”.  Jesus is crystal clear in this short passage that following Jesus is not mainstream, and the mainstream are not following Jesus:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  (Matt 7:13-14)

Not only are we to make our way out of the mainstream–and its thought forms and lifestyles–we are to then walk along a narrow “stream”, so to speak.  The water in this path does not push you along with great force.  It is quiet and gentle, and there is peace to be found in its midst.

We are living in radical times.  The battles being waged against God and His law are hot and often.  The force of the mainstream, which was impeded for a time in the nation into which you were born, has breached the dam.  There are tumultuous times ahead for those now floating comfortably in the backwaters.  But if you will be found in Christ, while you will not be spared trials and hardships, if you will cling to him you will find your feet always planted on the solid rock that cannot be swept away by the raging torrents.

Dear children, we don’t know how strongly our feet are planted until the floods come.  But I pray that that your feet, and our, your parent’s, feet will be planted firmly.  I pray it often that God would fix us fast to His Son in order that we would not be swept away.  All around us it is happening.  Everyday news comes of some church, or man of the church, who has lost his footing and has been swept away.  So as the scriptures point out…

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
(Ps 91:5-7)

 …so I pray for you.  May it be so dear LORD, may it be so.

Your father

Hell On Earth Is Rejecting God

Dear children

As a father who honestly and sincerely believes that there is much more to this life than simply working, playing and sleeping until death overtakes us, I don’t think it is possible for me to overstate how important it is that God would overtake your hearts and dwell within.  You see, I don’t believe for a second that this earth and all the life that lives on it simply popped into existence by mere chance.  I don’t think that you or I are mere flesh machines running to and fro, guided only by the chance electron flows in the gray substance that just happens to fill our heads.  No!  You have a purpose that transcends all that your eyes can see, your ears can hear, your skin can feel and your mind can think.

But there are those who reject God, indeed God says that very few will not reject Him.  And in their rejection they march on past the narrow gate which leads to a narrow path and then to an eternity, free from the sin, and all of its fallout, that corrupts this world.  But by passing the gate, they forego more than all that.  Much more.  They pass up an eternity in the presence of their creator and redeemer.  They pass up all that they ever wanted, their Utopia, free of death, free from tears, free from pain, and free from the chains of time.

And for our short lives here, when we reject God we necessarily reject along with God other things that, though they may not be acknowledged, they nevertheless undermine.  We reject:

Eternity. Just like those who came before you, you were born.  And likewise you will also die.  Do not be fooled.  That day is a certainty, though it may seem now to be far off.   Life as you now know it will not go on forever.  It is finite.  But its worse than that.  For those who reject God, any hope of eternal remembrance is vane.  The sun will one day burn out and this planet will be but a cold cinder in space; no one left to remember, no purpose, no nothing, just cold dead matter.

Purpose.  Without eternity the idea of purpose is just another meaningless spark in the neurons in your brain.  Anything “good” that was ever done, any sacrifice that was ever made, any great feat that was ever accomplished, all will disappear and are ultimately as meaningless after the sun burns out as they were when they were accomplished.  Without eternity there can be no purpose, no ultimate reason to do good, nor any ultimate reason to avoid or embrace evil.  There in fact will be no ultimate reason for anything.  Matter, even matter with electrical impulses, is still only matter.

Absolute truth.  Without eternal meaning and purpose there can be no truth.  The very words good and evil become finite and relative.  Good for me can mean what the meaningless thoughts in my brain tell me it is.  I could just as well consider it a good thing to kill someone and take their food when my body tells me I’m hungry.  Who’s to say it would be evil?  The masses on the road to destruction like to think that they can derive truth from themselves through consensus.  That is to say, they believe that good and evil can be determined by simply programming the majority of their fellow flesh machines to agree.  Of course they must destroy and oppress those who refuse to be reprogrammed for they are defective.  But in the end it is meaningless either way.

Men have risen to power and lorded themselves over other men since time began.  And they will until it ends.  They will become little gods for awhile, decreeing this and that good and evil.  But their decrees, just like the electrical charges that cause them to think that their decrees have meaning, are ultimately meaningless.  They will die and turn to dust just like all that came before them.

Love.  God is love.  In a world that rejects God, love is corrupted also.  God is love becomes “God is what I think love is”.  But man cannot even know what love is unless he first knows who God is.  To know God is to begin to get a glimpse into the meaning of “love”.  But without God, love becomes just as meaningless as everything else.  It becomes the result of some warm and fuzzy feelings brought about by chemicals and electrical impulses in the brain.  To love might very well be to murder.  When I, your father, am old, it might seem like the loving thing to do is to give me a pill that will put me out of my suffering and send me back to the dust from whence I came.  But more importantly, by labeling it love, you can go on without any feelings of guilt for murdering your father.  There are perhaps a million ways that hell can be unleashed on this earth in the name of love, for when you reject the Father, you must therefore reject any true meaning or understanding of “love”.

Hope.  The Bible says that “hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one hope for what he already sees?  When we reject God, we abandon all hope except that our eternal state will be nothingness and we really aren’t ultimately accountable for our decisions in this life.  But if our eternal state really is nothingness, then all meaning, all purpose, all truth, and all hope are just as meaningless while we exist.  Man is  left with YOLO,  (you only live once)  and he becomes an hedonistic animal attempting to somehow derive meaning from self-gratification; ever on the lookout for that next thrill or pleasure, driven on by nothing more than minuscule little electrical and chemical signals in his head.  His short existence is plunged into a Hell as millions claw and scratch in their attempts to live this one and only meaningless life doing what the impulses in his brain tells him to do.  He is a slave to his flesh and without hope.

___________________________

Life on the narrow path is nothing like this bleak and hellish existence.  Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”.  Picking up our cross is rejecting the flesh’s rule over your destinies.  We are liberated from our slavery to the flesh through the cross.  In the eyes of a world that has no basis for purpose, truth, love or hope, a world that orders itself according to YOLO, picking up your cross and following Jesus will of course make no sense.  But for those on the narrow path it makes perfect sense and in fact,  for them senselessness is trying to derive meaning from nothing.

It is my prayer that you not suffer during your short life.  But I also pray even more that you enter through the narrow gate and walk along the narrow path.  I, in fact, pray that even if the narrow path is filled with suffering, and it may well be, that you will walk that path anyway in God’s abundant grace.  His grace is able to sustain you in temporary suffering much more than all the riches in this meaningless world can in a comfortable pain-free life, and I pray that His Grace will do that very thing.  Paul tells us that “For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.”  So I admonish you dear children, ask your Father in heaven to give you the grace to enter through that narrow gate, and then to walk along that narrow path, and to set your sights beyond the grave which, you should remember, looms much nearer than you think.

Your father

Is God Really “Good”? Are You?

Dear children

There are some words that we use… that I use, which I have termed “neon words”.  I call them this because it seems that every time I hear them they shine bright in my thinking and generally suggest the need of a definition.  These words are so common that we often make assumptions that they mean the same thing to everyone when they don’t; and that causes a lot of confusion.

Today I want to talk about one “neon word” in particular.  It is used often and it often communicates very little between people.  That word is “good”.   Here are a couple of things to think about when you hear it:

First, the word “good”, when you think about it, appeals to a standard.  It in fact must.  No confusion there just yet.  The problem comes when the source of the standard is unclear, or whether that standard is subjective or objective. For example, if someone says: “Chocolate ice cream is good”, good appeals to a subjective standard. It does not imply that the goodness of chocolate ice cream is, or ought to be, universal. But imagine if the speaker, or hearer, was making assumptions about that the statement.  Suppose someone understood that statement in universal terms.  That would change everything?  The statement would then be an objective and would appeal to a universal standard which would make it an objective truth.  But, when we’re talking about ice cream it is easy to discern that the statement is not making an objective or universal claim.  But trust me, it is not always quite so clear.

Consider, for example, the statement, “I am a good person”. Unlike the goodness of ice cream, this is appealing to an objective standard. While ice cream is subject to personal tastes, in order to assert that I am a good person I must then compare myself to another standard completely; a standard that is independent of, and outside of, myself, and which is universal.

With a little thought we can see here how, if we confuse the source of the standard, not only will our communication suffer but so will our thinking. Consider for a moment the statement: “Mr. Smith is a good teacher”. What is most likely heard is that Mr. Smith conforms to some objective standard for teaching. But the person saying this might well be communicating that Mr. Smith makes him feel good about himself while in Mr. Smith’s class. Mr. Smith may well not be a good teacher at all but rather good in the skills of personal relations. There is no way the hearer can know without exercising a little curiosity about what is meant.  He must ask some questions like “Why do you say that?” Or maybe someone thinks Mr. Smith, although he has great interpersonal skills, is a rotten teacher.  That person may ask, perhaps sarcastically: “If he’s a good teacher then I’m wondering what your idea of a bad teacher would be?” Such questions are seeking to understand the standard being used.

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “God is good”? Does standard does this statement appeal to?  Is it a subjective or objective standard? Is God “good” because His character aligns with a definition of good derived from my own personal desires? To correctly convey the reality that these words represent, these questions must have answers. Is God’s character being compared to a higher standard than even Himself? What standard does one appeal to in such a statement that God might be judged as having measured up to it? Our own personal standard? What if, as I believe to be true, “God” is the standard? In that case we can rightly say with Job “Though He slay me, (a bad thing) I will hope in Him”1  and it would make sense? But if God’s goodness is subject to my own personal preferences, then not only is God diminished, but so is the word “good”. In such a case we can only say “God is good” when we, say, get that one thing that we’ve been wanting.  But we can’t then also say “God is good” when we then lose that one thing for what ever reason.  That would necessarily make God bad, would it not, since his goodness or badness is measured against what good or bad thing happens to you?  To judge God according to what you think ought to be, or a standard based on your own likes and dislikes will lead you to a misunderstanding of both, the meaning of the word good, and the very nature of God.

Second, it doesn’t help that we live in a time in which all standards are considered relative. The idea that an objective standard exists has been rejected because it is believed that there is no objective standard except what man determines that it is on any given day.  With this view we need not examine our own lives according to any standard other than the one we create for ourselves… which would of course be subjective. Using this sort of reasoning a mother, having just been convicted of horribly abusing her children, could still proclaim loudly to the court that she is a good person, as happened a few years back here in Arizona. Why shouldn’t she say it? To what objective standard would anyone appeal to argue differently?  We are all, after all, little cocoons wherein our own self-created reality, and its standards, aligns with our own desires. We can see why then that any suggestion that there is a standard that exists beyond our own personal tastes and pleasures is met with fierce opposition.

But it gets more confusing yet. You will hear that it is not good for you to impose your standards on others, and we are not to judge others either, as if the world outside our cocoon is now somehow subject to the subjective standards that exist on the inside. The fact that we feel better about ourselves because we are living according to a standard we created ourselves, for the purpose of making ourselves feel better about ourselves, hides the fact that we are now twisting ourselves into logical pretzels and are in reality functioning in an absurd world.

In this world the very word “good” is rendered meaningless and in many cases — according to any given person’s subjective framework — it is no longer distinguishable from “bad” so that good for some becomes evil for others. 2   Yet the word lingers in our language as if there were still a standard from which its meaning could be derived, while at the same time that standard’s existence is denied. The language therefore becomes confused and communication between souls breaks down so that we live in a modern-day kind of Babel.  3

In such a world it is then pondered, why are people these days so isolated? Why can’t we all just get along? Why is there such division and loneliness? One reason is that they have killed and dismembered a key and core concept. They have treated a foundational thing like the idea that is represented by the word “good” as if it were a pre-born child and ripped it from the womb of our thinking, and having thrown it into the trash bin, have celebrated the freedom to do so.  But such freedoms are not free.  They come with a price that apparently very few realize that we are paying.

So dear children.  Hold fast to the foundations laid long ago by God.  Don’t think yourself in a position to judge God, but instead cry out for his mercy as he judges you according to a perfect standard that was laid before the foundations of the earth; a standard that all have fallen short of.  As Paul admonishes us, so do I, cloth yourself in Christ that you may rise to God’s holy and perfect standard in Him, and therefore become good in the sight of God.

Your father.

Nothing Doesn’t Attack Anything

Dear children,

You will live your lives in a world with competing worldviews.  But it is worse than that really.  It is not as if these worldviews are in amiable competition for your allegiance.  They are at war with each other.  It is a war of ideas, yes, but eventually wars of ideas become bloody.  You,  my dear children, will pick a side in this conflict.  There is no avoiding that fact.  You will be touched by it as well, no matter what side you choose, even if that side is one of pacifism, Unitarianism or live and let live.

If you follow the path that I’ve pointed out for you, that is to say, if you follow Jesus, you will likewise be attacked in any number of ways.  Scripture is clear on this matter.  So in this letter I would like to paint those attacks with a wide brush and then point out something worth noting.  But fist let me define the key term, “attack”.

To attack a thing can generally mean to act violently toward it.  Or it can mean to impugn or challenge its cognitive structure, as in the “idea”.  While both of these kinds of attacks on Christianity are happening today, I want to focus on the latter of the two, and specifically on the fact that these attacks should be interpreted from two different perspectives.  The first of these perspectives is the actual challenge to your worldview.  If someone, for example, is challenging your belief that there is a God by offering his believed evidence that there isn’t, then that evidence must be dealt with.  I’ll call that the offensive perspective.  An offensive action is being taken against your beliefs.  The second perspective I’ll call the “defensive” perspective.  Every attack emanates from its own belief system, or worldview, and therefore is a thing open to attack itself, and which ought to be defensible.  Because of their immersion in this culture, most whom you will encounter will not even realize this because their belief system is “normal”, which is just another way of saying that it is what everybody else they know believes too.  It more than likely will have never occurred to them that they hold a view which itself requires a defense.

I would have your minds work so as to think within the framework of both of these perspectives, always.  As a Christian you are not, nor should you ever be, solely held to defending your faith against those who are attacking it.  You will find that defending your faith is a much easier task, even in your own mind, when you are able to challenge the challenger and make him defend his faith also.  His faith will generally come in one of  two forms.  The form that you are most unlikely to encounter is the one that insists that there is no god.  But there is another from just like it, which you will encounter often, even from many who profess to be Christians, that will insist that thought there is a god, you can’t know or be certain what he requires.   You will navigate attacks from these worldviews more easily when you realize that they are in reality nothing more than attempts at usurping your faith with theirs.  But be sure that in the end, they offer nothing more or less than faith also.

Life requires faith.  You will put your faith in something, be it a Utopian idea, a man, a religion, a government or any number of other things that can easily be turned into an idol for worship.  While you will encounter some who have faith in the gods of differing religions, and yes, the people of those faiths will–and if they are being true to that faith, should–attempt to win you over to their faith. These are easier to think through because it is plain to see that your faith is being challenged by another faith that does not attempt to hide its own beliefs nor the fact that an attempt at usurpation is happening.  But you will face precious little of that sort of an “attack”  in your lifetime.  The attacks you will experience rather will come from a faith that doesn’t see itself as faith at all, for it is a faith in man.  And though it will seldom be admitted to you, the name of this faith is “Secular Humanism”.  It bills itself as not being based on faith because it points to what it calls science, and it worships no deity.  Or, the deity that it does worship is indistinguishable from the government and the prevailing “morality” of the age.   But rest assured, this faith contains all the elements of just another religion with all of its ordinances, worship requirements, systems of morality, redemption and even its own little gods.

For this reason I would admonish you to study your culture.  Know it.  Understand that attacks on your faith are not coming from nowhere or nothing.  They have a source, always, a belief system from which it attacks.  Realize that it, like all other religions, are at war with God and His law, and it means to win.  Understand that those who fall away from Christianity, and embraced this Godless culture, have not fallen away from religion but have merely exchanged the one true God for an idol.  They have simply allowed that God be usurped by an idol, which in your culture’s case, is man.

I wish, dear children, that you could simply embrace the love of Christ and live out the rest of your life in peace and tranquility, and to a certain extent, you can though your belief in Jesus.  But the Bible is clear.  Trials will come… many trials.  You will either traverse those trials with the light of God’s word, or you will traverse them based on some other belief system.  But know that they will come, and you will walk through them.  I plea that you hold onto Jesus tightly, who promised us that, though troubles will come in this world, He has overcome this world.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”
(John 16:33)

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.

The Tale Of Two Men

Dear children,

I have a story for you to think about.  It is about two men who are identical in every way.  The first one, a wealthy man, learned one day that he would be receiving a gift of ten million dollars.  He was pleasantly surprised and happy about his good fortune, but this news was not life changing for him.

The other man was not only poverty stricken, he was blind.  He couldn’t work to earn a living.  He wondered every day where his next meal was coming from and where he would sleep that night. This man was also told that he would be receiving ten million dollars.  This good fortune would not only become his future sustenance, it would completely alter his life.

Both of these men received identical news.   So which do you think was happiest?  There is, of course, a catch.  I said earlier that these two men were identical, and in a spiritual sense all men are identical in their condition before God.  But some men do not see their spiritual need.  But the scriptures are clear regarding our spiritual state.  All men are blind naked and poor and are in need of a redeemer.  To the extent that a person realizes this, that person will also receive with great joy the Gospel, and his life will forever be changed.

I draw this comparison from Revelations 3:

‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.  (Rev 3:17-20 NASU)

The Gospel involves two parts.  There is you (or me, or man, or us, or them) who fits the description above of being poor and blind.  And then there is God, who is holy, righteous, perfect and just.  The Gospel is all about reconciling you to Him.

You will be living your lives in a culture that has rejected God, yes, this is true.  But, if you continue in your faith, you will also be living your lives among a Christian subculture that no longer knows half of the Gospel.  The first man represents the Christian culture that you will be living in.  This culture loves the grace part of the Gospel.  He loves the promise of his sins being forgiven.  He loves the saved from Hell part.  But, like the rich man, his life will not be impacted much by the free gift of salvation because he never fully grasped his own condition before God.  He therefore never fully grasped what a great salvation his salvation actually was, if in fact he was ever truly saved at all.  And because his view of himself was distorted, his view of God was distorted.  And because his view of God was distorted, his view of the Gospel was distorted.

But here is the truth about that half of the Gospel.  Man is depraved.  I am convinced that we have no idea the depths of our true despair before God. It may well even be beyond our ability to grasp it.  While we all probably have a trace of the first man in us, to the extent that we realize that we are the second man, that we really are wretched, blind and poor, to the same extent we will fall in love with the Gospel.  But to the extent that we cannot grasp our true condition before God as fallen, again to that same extent we are likely to pervert the Gospel, or even become ashamed of it.  This has become evident in your day.  The Gospel has become “God loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life”.  This is like telling a rich man that he’s getting some extra cash.  The rich man says “Oh, that’s very nice, thank you.”  I promise you this, dear children, this is not how one who understands his true situation before God responds to the true Gospel.  The proper response is that of Paul, who exclaimed “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:24-25)

And here is the truth about the other half of the Gospel.  God is holy, righteous, perfect and just.  Because of these attributes, and because of the condition of man, it is right that God’s wrath would abide on man.  And that is the sore point in the Gospel.  Man uses a different standard to judge righteousness than God does.  Man uses himself as the standard.  But God uses perfection, which is Himself.  But God wins.  Man must judge himself according to God’s standards, which is the rub.  When man adopts God’s standards of righteousness he must accept that he is not only condemned, his condemnation is the only holy, righteous, perfect and just verdict that can be had. Man must accept that he is poor and blind.  Before man’s eyes are opened to his condition in the light of the glory of God, the whole Gospel is foolishness and repulsive to him. The response by the man who truly understands the Gospel is praise in reckless abandon.

You live in a material world dear children.  Every minute of every day of your life will not be lived in this exuberant thanksgiving for the Gospel.  But never let yourself stray very far from the reality of it.  Spend time meditating on the significance of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  Consider who He is, and that He came into this sin soaked world to reconcile man, who was dead in his sins and in active rebellion against the Father, to die on the cross.  Meditate on the holiness and righteousness of God, and His love for those who have been reconciled to himself.  Never forget the eternity that you were saved from, nor the eternity that you were saved into.  Examine yourself often.

I will close this letter by including the lyrics to a song written a couple hundred years ago in an age in which the Gospel had not yet been so perverted. It is drawn from Exodus 33 wherein God hides Moses in the cleft of the rock to protect Moses from Himself.  This is a beautiful metaphor that highlights man’s condition and God’s providence of hiding man in the cleft of that rock which symbolized Jesus.  It is a prayer put to song, which, as you know, I love.  But consider the doctrine of the Gospel in this song.  The writer understood two things about the Gospel: his condition, and God’s holiness.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee

I pray that you would rush to cross and cling with all your might.  I pray that the good news of the Gospel would fill your every heart with gratitude, praise and thanksgiving.

With prayer and love

your father

 

*Understand Your Worlds

Dear Children,

Understanding this life requires ever keeping in mind that you are at the same time living in two different worlds if you are in Christ. There is the natural world that you can see, feel, taste, smell and hear, then there is a Spiritual world that our natural senses can’t discern.

The natural world is made up of material, and so you might hear it referred to as a naturalistic/materialistic world. Take a moment to notice what you can see right now, what you are hearing, tasting, and smelling.  You are noticing sensory inputs into an infinitely complicated machine which is your body. With this body, you experience the beauty of things like blue skies, birds, dogs and sunsets.  You can also experience unpleasant things like pain, sadness, fear or anger.  If this material world was all that there is then these experiences would be nothing more than your “machine” processing data by way of chemical reactions in your head.  But don’t ever buy into the notion that you are merely machines.  You are much much more!

The spiritual world that exists around us is wholly unlike the natural world. Not being material it is not experienced with our senses like the natural world, but it is discerned spiritually.  The Bible has much to say about this world and indeed without accepting that the spiritual world exists the Bible will never make much sense to you.

Of course, there are some who do not believe that there is such a thing as a spiritual world. The Bible refers to this type of man as a “natural man”. God, speaking through Paul, says in 1 Cor 2:14 that: “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

This idea that there are two worlds is interwoven throughout the Old and New Testament, but we see it in the New Testament especially. Nicodemus encountered this when Jesus told him that he must be born again. He asked Jesus how anyone could possibly climb back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time? (John 3)  And again, Jesus once told a group of people that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood which caused those people to abandon Him. They didn’t understand that he was speaking about a spiritual reality. (John 6)  The Bible also contrasts these two worlds in Romans 8 when we are told that there are those who are according to the flesh and those who are according to the spirit. And following closely behind these principles the passage continues with: “… and the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God for it does not subject itself to the will of God for it can not do so.

In Ephesians 2 Paul points out that before the Spirit of Christ enters a person that person follows the “prince of the power of the air”, and that this same spirit is at work in this world and also in what he calls the “sons of disobedience”.  As those who are in Christ, we watch this prince at work with dismay, and sometimes with fear when we see evil thoughts, evil laws and evil deeds from natural men who have set themselves against God’s lordship in their lives. Jesus knew these things would happen, and that we would experience fear when we saw them.  That’s why he commanded us many times to not fear such things when we see them but instead to fear God, which is the beginning of understanding.

I pray that you would walk and think in the spirit and that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Your father

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