The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, December 28, 2012

Give Thanks

Post by: Nathan Fox

Our Topic
I recently just finished a book study on the book of Acts, which indeed was very beneficial in not only my personal life but hopefully in the lives of those who have read my contributions to the blog within the last month and a half. It truly is a remarkable book, and one in which we can glean some very important points of living from. My next book that I have decided to study is the book of Colossians, which I will begin to unpack in next week’s blog. For this week I am taking a break from any specific book study and will instead focus on a topic that every Christian ought to be familiar with on a daily basis: Thankfulness.
Why This Topic
In all honesty, no topic is as prevalent in churches and individual lives as this one. Especially around the Christmas season, the topic of thankfulness is one that should be on the forefront of every believer’s mind. Pastors from pulpits everywhere should encourage thankfulness from their God-given platforms, and believers everywhere should be encouraged by all that they have to be thankful for. It’s not a hard topic to figure out, and is certainly not a deep theological term that will boggle your mind. It’s a simple, practical characteristic that even unbelievers will understand. But for a believer, thankfulness is a key driving attribute that could and should be administered on a daily basis. Let me show you what I mean.
Verses on this Topic
From Old Testament to New Testament, there are an abundance of verses on how important it is to be thankful to God. Psalm 100:4 says this: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, bless His name!” Later on in Biblical literature, Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In these two verses alone we see everything we need to know about being thankful. We know who is to be thankful (us), who we ought to be thankful towards (God), how we can show thanks (through praise and blessings), and how often we ought to be thankful (in everything). Folks, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out this simple truth of thankfulness. God’s Word is packed with verses and examples of truly thankful hearts, and we would be wise to carry a heartfelt attitude of thankfulness for all God has done for us.
What am I to be Thankful For?
One of my favorite hymns growing up revolved around this topic of thankfulness. It says this: “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.” In just a few short words, you can quickly figure out what that song is about. We are to give thanks for everything according to Paul, but nothing should hold our adoration more than Jesus. It’s really why I chose this topic this week. This time of year we are reminded how precious Jesus was and is, and we are continually called to be thankful for Him and to Him. I implore you to give your thanks to Him today. Take a few minutes today and thank Him for His love, His passion for you and for the world, His humility to live amongst us and die for us, and His unwavering dedication for the lost. I guarantee that you can’t comprehend how deep His love is, but I can guarantee that sitting for a few minutes and meditating on His love will lead to nothing but thankfulness. Give thanks to God because He has given Jesus, and may God be glorified in that moment as you give thanks to Him.
What Nathan Fox is Thankful For
I feel it best to encourage you not only with my words of admonition but to also encourage you by expressing to you what I am thankful to God for. I find it a good practice for not only myself but also for others to sit down “and count blessings.” I am first and foremost thankful for Jesus, and what I wrote in the section above flows from my heart. I cannot adequately express to Him how thankful I am for Him, because no amount of words will ever suffice. He truly has done everything for me, and has been everything that He promised He would be. I am so glad that He saved me, and even more than that, I am so glad that He loves me. I could go on and on about my Jesus, but I trust that you have captured my thankful heart on that matter.
I am so thankful for my beautiful bride-to-be in Ashley. She is a joy to my life, and is truly a wonderful person, both externally and internally. I am so thankful that God put her into my life and has set it up that I should marry her. Along with Ashley, I am thankful for my family and friends. My parents are wonderful parents, and have raised me as best as you can raise a stubborn and rebellious boy. I am thankful for their love and constant encouragement in all areas of my life. I am thankful for my brothers, who have provided the laughter and love that is very important among siblings of all ages. I am thankful for my friends everywhere, who have helped me in my times of hurt and who have allowed for me to pour into them. It is a true blessing to see how God has put certain people in my life for very specific purposes, and for that I am thankful.
I am thankful for my school, Liberty University. In that place, God has moved in me and given me a passion for youth ministry. I am now more excited than ever to do ministry in His name, and I am so thankful for the professors and classmates who have taken the time to help me in any way possible. Lastly (but certainly not last), I am thankful for this blog. I am thankful to Thomas and the rest of the contributors for giving me another chance to voice my adoration for Jesus on a weekly basis. I hope that this blog encourages others as much as it encourages me to write for it.
Folks, that is not all that I am thankful for. I have so much that God has given me that it would take me the longest time to go through. I encourage you to take the time to thank God everyday, and in everything to be thankful (as Paul says in Thessalonians). God is glorified as we are thankful to Him, and I hope that you will take every opportunity to glorify God in this manner. If you ever have a question about this topic, or how you can know the Jesus that I spoke about, please message any one of us contributors to this blog. We will be very thankful that you did!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chasing Shadows

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher 

I run through the meadow into the moon's gleam that trickles through the trees and splashes across the grass. And in the brightness all I see is you.  

Your hair is illumined, your eyes green, your face round and delicate. You wear grey silk, like nightwear, and extend your hand to me, beckoning me to come. 

I looked back but for a moment, and you were gone. 

I cannot say why I turned. Perhaps I think it too wondrous to be real, to fanciful to be happening. And now that you're gone, I dread to think it all a dream.

But then I approach where you stood, a strand of your radiant hair wafting in the gentle breeze, and as I involuntarily place my open palm beneath it, it rests upon it. I squeeze my hand- and my heart- around it.

And that contact with you, was all it took to know you were real, to know I was not chasing shadows.

So I searched. I journeyed through the forest, days without food. I slept in the cold, damp night, and sweltered in the day heat. My skin itched and turned to rashes, but I dared not turn back again, I dare not stop chasing after you. 

It wasn't the hand extended, or your warm smile, no- it is your eyes. Your piercing green eyes that say come, come, but do so like you want me, like you need me. 

I lose track of the day, and am closing in on despair. I take satisfaction in knowing you wanted me to come, to approach, to take you then and there. 

I delight in knowing my suffering, my hunger is for you. My sun-burnt flesh and weary head cannot thwart this rising pang of love and passion in my soul. I think of your lips, how they glistened like ocean water kissed by the sun rays, a thousand different refractions each promising it's own reward. 

And if I had to search one thousand days to find my treasure, I would. 

What are you? I do not know. A nymph, a goddess? I do not care. You had summoned me, and I dare not refuse your beckon, I dare not stop to ask why, or look back as before. And why would I? Such enchanting beauty no man has ever seen. I cannot resist your allure.

Then a glimpse, or was it? I could not be sure. I had all but forgotten, to my shame, your figure, once a vivid painting in my mind's eye but now reduced to a silhouette with silver lining. 

My passion had cooled. But that brief image re-lit the flame of my desire. 

Now I tear through the wooden hillside like a hurricane, ripping branches, being cut by thistles, stumbling on root and uneven ground. It is the least, why yes, the least I can do for you, my love. For I had turned my eyes while even in your presence! 

Yet for you to show yourself to me but for an instant was more than I deserved. And now that I have had a fleeting trace, I am tormented for more. 

So I run, and run, and run. Like a crazed lover, for that is what I am! 

Then another glimpse, and I change direction, and call out to you. But what is your name? "My love, my wonder, my joy, my beaut!" I cry, but you do not answer. You did not answer. 

I collapsed in a clearing, chest aching and head pounding, face down in the earth. I cried, from there I cried out to you! But where are you? You do not make a sound. You slink through the night like a whisper carried away by the wind. My feeble body had no nourishment, except for the uncatchable image of you. 

I believe it will sustain me a thousand years, so I stand. But no sooner do I falter and fall back to a knee. 

Then I looked up, and there you were. Why this, this is the spot, the same meadow as before! How long had it been? It was the place I knew, the special place where I first saw you. Your radiance had not diminished, your smile had not wavered, your teeth were still beautiful. 

Then I am enraptured again by your sparkling lips, intensifying the magnitude of my longing to press mine against yours, to lay in your arms, to be with just you on this fine patch of soft grass, beneath the stars, beneath the moon, by the pure flowing waters.... 

I am approaching, I am approaching you steadfastly. I will not look away, I shall not blink. I can smell your delicious fragrance- oh how inviting it is- as I draw near. I am captivated in this moment, and my heart beats violently as your angular features stand sharp, brilliantly like you are glowing, the only thing in color on this colorless grey night. 

I am noticing your eyes, they are green as emerald. As I approach I am realizing this time I cannot look away, I cannot breathe. I hasten my steps so that I do not lose breath before I reach you! I race to you; your silk hangs loose off your precious body. I long to touch you, to gently clasp your face in my hands! Now you are spreading both arms away from you, facing me; I'm running into your arms! 

And it is too late. 

You were wise, clever indeed to return to that same spot, that same time of the year when the lighting would befall the mound just as it did before. For I could not see, until this very moment before I dive headlong into you as you step outside that enchanted gleam, that your silk is of webs, your hair locks are of poisonous asps, your eyes are cruel embers, and your teeth are sharp fangs.

You are not what I expected. You are not pretty, my cruel love.  

I fall into your web. The hand that you did not extend I now see contains a dagger with wormwood on its point, and it's tearing through my chest. It's plunging through my heart. 

The searing pain gives way to drowsy, 

and I am going under, 

                                                                                        Then I awake. And I am in hell. You are here. And all I want to do is run from you, but I cannot. I cannot.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part 3): Called Unto Liberty

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty

Liberty is a concept that Americans easily identify with. Our Declaration of Independence was a notice to the King of England that we, as colonists, claimed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The declaration lists the grievances against the King, which include “Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us,” “protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States,” “cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world,” “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent,” “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury,” “plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Mutually pledging to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” the signees made the break by declaring their liberty, that is, their freedom from the tyranny of the English crown:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America.... by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.

The liberty that our American forefathers sought was a liberty from the tyrannical rule of a Crown, which essentially had little interest in the welfare of its colonial subjects, using them for its own good,or at least, for the good of the homeland.

Paul writes that the saints of the New Covenant “have been called to liberty.” What is the liberty that he has in mind? Is it anything like the liberty that the signers of the Declaration had in viewmen who were compelled to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The liberty that Paul is speaking of and the liberty sought in the Declaration of Independence have this in common – they are both a breaking away from or a dissolution of aauthority that once heldabsolute dominion over the one that is freed. What is the authority from which the New Testament believer has been freed?

It was the Old Testament cultus that Israel was bound to. It was the strict and exacting system of worship, animal sacrifice, priestly ritual; the regulations of food, sanitation, dress, social relations, etc.Paul explains that the real purpose of the Law (Old Testament system) was as a tutor (Gal 4:24) which had a pedagogical role in underscoring man’s inability to keep the law, and the necessity of a substitutionary sacrifice for the remission of sins. This role was in place until the fulfillment of all that it typified and anticipated in Christ was met in Christ’s first advent. Hence, the liberty that Paul is speaking of is a breaking away or release from the Old Testament religious system because of Christ who fulfilled the Law. There is no more need for an earthly temple, priesthood, or animal sacrifice because Christ became the great sacrificial lamb and high priest who opens the way into the heavenly holy of holies.

John has this same role in mind when he writes, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). It is an underlying thesis of the letter to the Hebrews.

To require one to keep any part of the Law’s ritual (circumcision, ceremonies, feasts, sabbaths, etc) was to require meritorious work in addition to faith, and thereby to seek justification not by faith in Christ alone, but by a mixture of faith and works.

Paul speaks of false brethren who came into the congregations of Galatia to spy out their liberty in Christ for the purpose of bringing them into bondage (Gal 2:4). Their identity as false brethren would make these men out as professing believers, seemingly brothers in Christ, but who really were not because the gospel they put forth was a false gospel.

This false gospel was the requirement of Christians, in addition to faith, to keep the law. Obviously, it was not a complete relapse into the Old Testament system, which included animal sacrifice, seventh day Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, feasts, holy days, and an adherence to a multitude of case laws. These false brethren must have placed some worth in the sacrificial character of Christ’s death as there seems no hint of their rejection of it, or a requirement to revert to the old way of animal sacrifice. It is probably for that reason they claimed to be Christians and why so many of those in the Churches of Galatia were so quickly turning away to another gospel. Those who were turning saw some similarities between the doctrine of the false brethren and Paul’s teaching, but were not fully examining it in light of everything that Paul taught.

It is a mistake that is made today. There are those who would claim to be true brothers and use language that is similar to the language of sound doctrine, but whose meaning is different.

The Christian Universalist provides an example for us. A Christian Universalist is one who believes that the only way of salvation is through faith in Christ, but that all will eventually come to faith, even those who have died in unbelief. Those in hell now will some day come to their senses, repent, believe, and be rescued from hell. Thomas Talbott (The Inescapable Love Of Godand Robin A. Parry (The Evangelical Universalistunder the pen name, Gregory MacDonald) are advocates of this.This view forces them to redefine or disfigure biblical concepts such as divine love (God’s love is of his essence and therefore cannot fail to save all whom he loves, which is everybody), punishment (which is really mercy because it brings those in hell to their senses at which time they will relent and give in to God), and justice (which sees an infinite punishment of finite sins as unjust).

Rob Bell (Love Wins)views hell to be as much as our living contrary to God’s ways now as it does with something yet to come. The identity of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life is wrenched from it exclusivistic moorings and twisted to mean, people come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.... They drink from the rock without knowing what or who it was.” (p 158) The gospel is the good news that:

“begins with the sure and certain truth that we [all without exception] are loved. That in spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong deep in our hearts[morally broken but not totally depraved] and has spread to every corner of the world, in spite of our sins, our failures, rebellion, and hard hearts, in spite of what’s been done to us or what we’ve done, God has made peace with us[reconciliation universally and presently applied]. We are now invited to live a whole new life [conversion, taking new direction in which we begin tofulfill our potential] without guilt or shame or blame or anxiety. We are going to be fine.” (p 172)

In Christ there is liberty, a breaking from a harsh, laborious system into a life in which the heart istransformed, the mind renewed, and Spirit of God enables to pursue holiness. It is freedom to keep God’s law enthusiastically because they are no longer a burden (1 John 5:3; Matt 11:28). It is coming under the authority of pastors and teachers so that we are no longer tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men (Eph 4:14). It is learning from Christ so that we put off our former behavior and put on a new man which is created in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:21-24).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Is This Child? A Hymn

Who is this Child?
A hymn by: Andrew M. Gilhooley
Set to the tune of 'Londonderry Air’ ( at ♪ (eighth note) = 80

Who is this child of whom angels sing great laud?
    Born in the humble town of Bethlehem?
Could this one be Jacob's long awaited rod?
    The king who springeth forth from Jesse's stem?
This is the Christ, Yahweh's Anointed Servant;
    The Holy One of chosen Israel,
Who'll bring salvation to kin near and tribes far;
    This is the Word made flesh, Immanuel.

Why did he come forth in such humble array?
    Laid in a trough and dressed with pauper's clothes?
Why was this prince born void of man's accolade?
    Visited by base shepherds, men of loathe?
For He came not for pomp but to bear our curse
    By being hung on the damned Roman tree,
And so redeem His elect from Adam's curse,
    And grant Abraham's blessing to the Greeks.

Why did He come to ransom wretches as I?
    Why was He born to suffer for my sins?
I cannot grasp such awful love from on high
    And joy'fly join the heav'nly choir a-kin:
"Glory to God who's enthroned in the highest!
    And peace on earth with those whom Thou delight!
We give Thee thanks, Triune God, the Lord brightest!
    For the greater Joshua born that night!"

Lyrics © 2012 by Andrew M. Gilhooley

--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, playing piano, writing, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, Andrew plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into bible translation ministry.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Eternal Benefits of a Gentle Witness

By: Nathan Fox

The Wrong Way to Witness
Several years ago as a freshman at N.C State I saw something (or should I say someone) that has changed my perception on how to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ. On that day as I was walking through the main courtyard on campus, I heard a middle-aged man loudlyblasting people as they passed by, all in “the name of Jesus,” which were his own words.Intrigued by his yelling and ranting, I (along with a great crowd of people) began to assemblearound him to listen to what he had to say to each of us. Looking back now I realize I wasted 20 minutes of my life that I can never get back. What he said and how he said it has still to this day been etched into my mind in the most negative of ways.
As we were walking up, he was addressing an African-American male who just so happened to have dreadlocks. This “preacher” for Jesus told this dreadlocked student that he was going to hell for (and this is no exaggeration of words) “looking like Bob Marley.” This man insinuated that since this student looked like Bob Marley, he must have been a “pothead.” He told this student that since he was a “pothead”, he must have been a daddy of a baby somewhere.And if he was a daddy out of wedlock, then God was going to condemn him to hell. Left and right this man went on condemning people, and even got into verbal arguments with those whom he was accusing. Oh, he definitely spoke of sin; he made sure that each person was verbally assaulted about their shortcomings. But he never spoke of Jesus! He never told these people the cure to their sins! He never possessed a heart of love that is very much needed to reach people who are lost. As we will see, a heart of love is an absolute necessity in giving the Gospel.

Paul’s Heartfelt Witnessing
If you have been following my posts at all, you know that Paul has had a rough go of it. He has been beaten, assaulted, and ridiculed for following his faith. It is no different in chapter 24 of the book of Acts. Here we find Paul standing trial before the governor of the area, whose name is Felix. During this trial, Paul’s accusers are allowed to speak first on the matter. Theyproceed by calling the Apostle Paul a plague (5), a “creator of dissension” (5), and a man who “profanes the temple.” (6) In a nutshell, they wanted the Apostle to be punished for spreading the Gospel of Jesus in the synagogues.
There accusations are nothing new to someone who has been reading throughout the book of Acts, but I want us to take a look at Paul’s response to their allegations. I think in the following verses you will see the kind of man that Paul was as he witnessed to people. Paulclaims in verse 12 that he was not in the temple “disputing with anyone and he was not inciting the crowd.” He goes on to say in verses 16 and 17 that “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I have brought alms and offerings to my nation…” Take a note of this please! Paul had every opportunity throughout his lifetime to blast into his accusers for their mistreatment of him as a Roman citizen. He had every opportunity to call out their sins against him throughout the years, but he never does. In all actuality, he does the complete opposite. He loves by bringing alms and offerings, even to those who have hurt him and done wrong to him. What a stark contrast to the guy I saw at N.C State, who blasted people he didn’t even know for sins they never did against him.
Going on, Paul says in verse 14 of chapter 24 in Acts that he worshipped God by worshipping Jesus. Even in this trial, this trying moment of Paul’s life, He makes mention ofJesus! In front of the governor, his accusers, and all else in the room, Paul gives them the greatest news of love that he can by speaking of Jesus! Oh he could have stood in there and lashed out loud against his accusers, but he stood in there and loved out loud to all people. And boy did it have an impact on people in that room. Look at the end of verse 26 in chapter 24. It says that “he (Governor Felix) sent for him (Paul) more often and conversed with him.” Now, what do you think the two of them could have been conversing about? Knowing Paul, there was always one thing at the forefront of his mind, and that was Jesus. I assume through my reading of the text that the Governor of the area was in constant conversation with Paul about Jesus. Think about that for a second; Paul had a profound impact for the Gospel, even in the political realm.And it was all because Paul never lost his heart of love for the people.

What it Means
There is so much impact from this chapter of Acts. In it, we see the proper attitude that we should have when we witness. We can see that in all his efforts Paul made it a priority to stand at peace with people, and in all things to present a message of love not only through word but through action. Should it be any different for us today? I would say absolutely not! Unlike that man at the beginning who drove people away from Jesus with his verbal abuse, I declare that we must present the entire Gospel out of love. When we speak to someone regarding their sin, tell them with love. This does not mean we sugarcoat the sin, but we certainly don’t want to run them off before we get to the best part of the talk. We want to make sure that they understand that though God is not ok with sin, He still came to save. When we give the Gospel, have a heart of love for the person! I don’t care if you are Calvinist or not regarding this matter. I don’t care what theological background you have in this issue. You still must always under every circumstance make it a priority to give the Gospel in an attitude of love.
Do not be antagonistic like the man at N.C State. Only God knows who was turned away from Jesus that day because of his hate speech. Be like Paul, and give the entire message in the most pure heart of love possible. You never do know who is watching. Who would have guessed that in his defense, Paul would have gained the heart of the governor (all because of what the governor saw in Paul’s words and actions). I guarantee that if you give the Gospel out of love, someone will take notice. And that someone could be the next person that God brings into your life for the presentation of the Gospel to be given. And therein lies the eternal benefits of the gentle witness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part 2): Called in the Grace of Christ

By: Thomas Clayton Booher (The Elder)

Galatians 1:3-6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel---

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), was Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1906-1929. In 1929, he led a conservative movement out of the Northern Presbyterian Church to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the new school Westminster Theological Seminary. Machen taught at Westminster in the same chair he held at Princeton until his death.

Machen was unusually erudite in the original language of the New Testament. He wrote a beginner’s Grammar, which was used in my first year of Greek. I still have it – it brings back the fascination I felt when I first opened its pages and began to study the words and grammar Paul wrote in.

Machen remarks[1] that Paul added something in his greeting to the Galatians that he did not include in his other letters, and that was a forthright clarification of who Jesus Christ is. He is the One who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.

There was good reason Paul made that point at the forefront without delay, for the whole letter is a defense of the true gospel against Judaizers who were preaching a different gospel. They were teaching that salvation was obtained not through Christ alone but by additionally observing certain Old Testament rites (circumcision) and holy days (Gal 4:10; 5:2, 3). To state it another way, Christ did not completely do away with Old Testament ritual. Salvation was not by grace alone through faith alone. In addition to faith, salvation required the keeping of certain practices of Old Testament religion.

Giving the Judaizers their due, they seemed to have no requirement to continue animal sacrifices, presumably because they conceded that Christ’s sacrifice was the end of any further need for sacrifice. But this did not appease Paul who recognized that if the keeping of any part of the Old Testament cultic practice was necessary to be saved, then salvation comes not by grace, but at least in part by works. It is to make Christ and his sacrifice without effect, Gal 5:4; Cf 1 Cor 1:17.

Paul then expresses his surprise and wonder of how so many in the churches of Galatia were turning away from the One “who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” It is not that Paul assumed that the Christians of Galatia would eventually turn away, and that he was caught off guard by it happening so soon. His wonder is that they so easily and so quickly turned an attentive ear to a message that was so contrary to the one he preached to them and which they, apparently, gladly received at one time (cf Heb 10:32-35). This was not a matter of adiaphora (such as whether or not eating meat offered to idols was a sin, 1 Cor 10:23-31; or as today when we differ over premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism). It was not an issue around the periphery of the Christian faith, but at the heart. It struck at the core principal of grace, the very thing that God calls us in.

We are called by God, and the calling does not come to us in wrath and condemnation; how awful if that were the character of God’s calling – a calling in which God would take his people through the very sufferings of the One who gave himself for our sins and bore God’s wrath for us. That is the grace! He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Rom 8:32; For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Cor 5:21.

Our calling is in grace, and Paul specifically identifies it as the grace of Christ. The prepositional phrase, of Christ, could be interpreted in two ways. It could mean that the grace is the possession of Christ who exercises it toward us. Or, it could mean that the grace is Christ himself. Given Paul’s pointed statement in verse 4 that Christ gave himself for our sins, it is more likely that the grace Paul has in mind is the grace that is summed up in Christ – Christ is the essence and epitome of grace because he bore the wrath that we might bear the blessing.

This grace in which we are called, that is, this sphere of unearned favor and blessing, which God purposed to bestow on us through the suffering of Christ, has a purpose behind it. It is for deliverance ....that He might deliver us.... Consider the thing from which we are delivered, how it is such a monstrosity that anything we may encounter in the transience of life – sickness, pain, poverty, violence, betrayal – is mild and gentle by comparison. We are delivered from the present evil age. Paul does not speak of a nondescript, innocent age. Rather, it is an age that is inherently, intrinsically, through and through, evil. It is a world in which men drink iniquity like water (Job 15:16), where every intent of the thoughts of the heart are evil continually (Gen 6:5), and the heart is so deceitful it is unpredictable in its expression of sin (Jer 17:9), in which the Devil himself is the prince and power of the air (Eph 2:2), and the sons of men are sons of disobedience fulfilling the base desires of the flesh and mind (Eph 2:3). It is an age in which everything is in some manner the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15),  an age which is passing away (1 John 2:17) and will some day be consumed by fire and be no more (Rev 21:1; 2 Pet 3:7-10). It is a world in which each one born into the human race is a slave of evil (John 8:34; Rom 6:6, 16-18, 20; 2 Peter 2:19).

Our calling is in grace, which implies a calling to utter humility. We can do nothing and have done nothing to get ourselves into this grace and we can do nothing to keep ourselves in it. It is all of God, from beginning to end. We have nothing to offer, we can only receive. If there is any worth, it is an alien worth, not our own and we should never forget it. We should live in the light of it, looking unto God for continual help as he alone is our strength and shield (Ps 28:7), who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

Are you a sinner still under God’s condemnation? Do not be proud. Do not think there is something you must do. While in Bible college I worked in the kitchen of the Lourdsmont nunnery and a school for troubled young ladies. It was located across the road from the college. Our site was once a monastery and the companion to Lourdsmont. Every day I ran into and had wonderful conversations with Sister Helen. We talked about everything: history, teaching, reading, cooking... life in general. She even gave me her class notes she used to teach her students English. We also talked about the gospel. When I finally pared it down to the essentials, that it is by grace alone, through faith alone, she looked at me in wonder and said, “But we have to do something.” That was a typical Roman Catholic response. It is akin to the Judaizing theology in which something was added to faith.

But it is by faith alone because it is all of grace. Again, are you a sinner under God’s condemnation? There is no time in which you can prepare yourself for God to accept you. You have nothing to offer which is not tainted by unlawful desires, greed, self-aggrandizement, or falsehood. The best you have to offer, the cream, is as a filthy rag before God, Is 64:6. But that is the beauty of grace. It requires no preparation on our part. It requires only a humble and contrite heart (Ps 51:17), and when your eyes are opened to the holiness of God and the sinfulness of your heart, humility and contrition follow – you flee to Christ who alone can forgive, cleanse, and transform you.

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
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.

[1] Skilton, John H., Machen’s Notes On Galatians, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1973, p 27.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Genius: Re-Imagining John Lennon's Brotherhood Of Man As Undefiled Religion

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

I watched Ray Comfort's new documentary about John Lennon called Genius. I must admit that I was not aware of John Lennon's backstory, singing in an Anglican choir as a boy, growing up in a cold and calculated Christian culture that prompted him to say "We're more popular than Jesus" after The Beatles hit it big. Whether he meant that as a simple statement of fact from his perspective or because he disliked the Christian faith and religion in general appears to actually be a more debatable question than I realized, but a bit of both is likely true. John Lennon said he wanted happiness, and inquired about what Christianity could offer him to make him happy (perhaps if John Piper had talked to him about Christian Hedonism Lennon would have understood that the only true joy is found in glorifying God). 

Most people consider Lennon's song Imagine to be about the wickedness of religion and the community/brotherhood of man that should take its place. What I want to address is the fact that many people have taken the song that way, and many people today, a generation later, are living their life with that  philosophy. 

No, I am not talking about atheists only, but those masses of people who say they are "spiritual, not religious" and even the pseudo-evangelical slogan "it's not a religion it's a relationship." The spiritual, not religious crowd rally around people like Rob Bell. The "it's not a religion it's a relationship" crowd rally around men like Perry Noble, Steve Furtick, and all those online, seeker-sensitive type churches that bring in stunts and kicks and giggles to entertain the masses into feeling good for Jesus and nothing more. Across the board, even among those who call themselves Christians we are seeing a distancing away from religious authority. Which is to say, we are moving away from the authority and teaching of God as revealed in His Word, the Holy Bible, and replacing it with secular pop-psychology and ideology. We just place a Jesus sticker on it, call the place where we gather "church," call the self-help gurus "pastors," and call the paying (tithing) followers of the gurus "congregants." The Bible is opened largely to get people to make a commitment so that they can go to heaven after they die and not suffer in hell. This, too, is what John Lennon wanted. Happiness. Heaven, not hell. Lennon is quoted as saying:

Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phony? Can He love me?
I want out of hell.

He purportedly wrote that to an evangelist in 1972, eight years before he died. He saw himself as in hell while on earth (something Rob Bell loves to talk about). He saw religion as the problem (something Bell talks about as well). Again, many people today who take on the name of Christ see religion as the problem. Is it?

In one sense yes, in another no. Killing in the name of Christ, like the Crusaders, is a black mark on Christianity, on religion. Islam is a dark mark on religion. But God tells us that there is such a thing as true religion, and it is very good. In fact, it is exactly what John Lennon claimed to want and be looking for, he just didn't know it: 

James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
Visiting orphans and widows in their affliction sounds an awful lot like some of the desires Lennon expressed in his song Imagine: 

Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

Visiting widows and orphans to help meet their needs certainly has in mind the need of hunger. Greed, however, is another issue, one that Lennon couldn't come to grips with. He thought the solution, per the song, was a world with no possessions, no countries, no religion, no heaven or hell, in short, nothing to kill or die for. Just sharing all the world. This would probably look a lot like World Wide Socialism. In fact, this would be world wide socialism. And with the re-election of Barack Obama, that seems to be something we are taking a step closer to, at least here in America. But equal sharing of all the world is not something sinful man wants. If all worked equally hard, equal sharing would be reasonable. Some are lazy, some work because work makes money and making money gets what they want, which is all that brings them happiness. So both laziness and working hard can be due to greed, and all of us are struck with the sin of greed. So then, no one will share all the world. Lennon will figure this out eventually as you will see. 

But James 1:27 says something more. It says that pure and undefiled religion is also keeping oneself unstained from the world. This is talking about morality. This is talking about being holy, godly, Christ-like. That is where the solution comes to the problem of evil in the world. The evil is within us, not in the possessions, countries, or religion, but the way men and women take the things of this world and covet what another man has. This is the 10 commandments, isn't it? Don't steal, kill, or covet, but it is summed up in loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, then your neighbor as yourself. For if we lived for ourselves and loved our selves more than God, then to treat our neighbors as ourselves could be taken to treat others for your best interests, not theirs. Especially if there is no heaven or hell and we are just living for the moment.

That's exactly what Ray Comfort demonstrates in the documentary. When asking normal people he met at parks and on streets how much it would cost to murder someone, most said they would do it for a couple million bucks, provided they wouldn't get in trouble for it. Those who said they wouldn't do it as a matter of principle said so because of their belief in God, or at least a belief in a higher being/law that had authority over them. People who said this were fans of John Lennon, and presumably his philosophy as espoused in his song Imagine. Yet no brotherhood of man for them if they can make money and get away with the murder. Why? Because of greed. Because it isn't the possibility of owning things that is the problem with this world, but the covetousness of man that wants to own things to the point that they will kill for them. 

John Lennon toward the end of his life said he once equated money with sin, but later came to realize that

"Money itself isn't the root of all evil. Money is just a concept; also it's just energy. So now you could say I've come to terms with money and making money."

He would also, in response to being asked why he didn't still do benefit concerts for starving children in South America, say:

So where do people get off saying that the Beatles should give two hundred million dollars to South America? You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn't mean a thing. After they've eaten that meal, then what? It only lasts for a day.

Making money is the key to happiness for those who live the American Dream. Money is fallen man's god because it is the key to getting all that you want in life. I believe Lennon began to realize this when he said money is energy (read: power), and if there is no heaven or hell, no afterlife, then making money is the key to heaven, to happiness and bliss that John Lennon sought. For Lennon heaven and hell were right now, and after the music stops, life is eternally over. So from that perspective, money really is the root of all kinds of evil, just as Scripture says (1 Tim 6:10). Making money becomes the way to live your best life now (Joel Osteen anyone?) because that's all you've got, so live in this moment, for the day(like Lennon says in his song). 

Now I want to point out two things: Firstly, that when we stray from the Word of God we are straying away from true and undefiled religion. When we do this, we stray away from true happiness, which is found in sound doctrine that transforms the way you live your life and what you live it for. Lastly, Lennon imagined what a world without possessions, countries, religions, in short what a socialistic earth would look like, and he didn't like it. In the final analysis, he said he came to peace with making money and not trying to raise money for poor, starving children. By trying to get away from religion he started becoming the very thing he hated about his misunderstanding of true religion. If only he had looked to true religion, found in the teaching and living of Jesus Christ and all the Bible, then John Lennon would have found true, eternal, lasting happiness that doesn't cease after the meal is finished, after one of your crazed fans shoots you to death. Where does one find such food that sustains life forever?

Jesus Christ says He is the Bread of Life in John 6. 

27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus Christ died on a cross, enduring the righteous wrath of God against all the sin of sinners. To receive this life, we must feed on the Bread of Life. Christ is that Bread. This is what communion is for, this is why Christians eat bread and drink wine at church, because it symbolizes the body and blood of Christ broken for His people. To feed on Christ is to trust in what He did on the cross for you, to believe that His body was struck with the wrath of God, with hell, in your place, and that Christ's sinless, righteous, unstained-from-the-world life is imputed to you, is accredited to your account. All the suffering in the world, all the sin in man's heart, will be done away with when Christ returns. Those who did not trust in Christ will suffer God's wrath in hell forever, but the good news is, as verse 40 says, those who die trusting in Christ for salvation will be raised imperishable, incorruptible into a life free of sin, sorrow, and suffering, where it is a brotherhood of man, united together as the bride of Christ, having in common the Lord God as their Father. 

So don't miss the love of Christ like John Lennon did. Christ's love was expressed in true and undefiled religion, by visiting orphans and widows and helping them and by keeping His heart from greed and all forms of sin. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that Christ saved us by grace through faith as a gift of God, not of works so that none of us may boast. In order to be saved we can't be greedy and say we did it. Rather, we must become humble and see that the problem with the world is us, not the things in the world, and that our hearts are desperately wicked. We love evil and hate good. We live for ourselves first and not God or others. The only way this can be changed is by having the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5), and the only way the love of Christ can be shed abroad in our hearts is if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then His loving, Holy Spirit will enter you and change your desires and affections to be humble and selfless, loving God and man and not being greedy.

Yes, as John Lennon asked, He really can love you. He loves me, gave Himself for me, and transformed me from a self-loving boaster to one who, by God's grace, is resisting self-love and all forms of sin and gradually living more and more for God's purposes and others. And I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life. 

To close, I exhort you, if you have not come to Christ, to do so in the manner that Isaiah 55:1 speaks of: 

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;

and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.