The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

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.




  

Friday, December 7, 2012

TDL Podcast #1: Getting To Know The Contributors

By: Thomas Booher

Hello everyone, I am starting a podcast for the blog. This week I talk about the new contributors to the TDL and a bit about the e-Book I am working on. Enjoy! 





Thursday, December 6, 2012

Corporate Solidarity and Our Salvation


By: Andrew M. Gilhooley



A biblical concept westerners fail to grasp as a consequence of Enlightenment thinking is that of ‘corporate solidarity’: the notion that one person represents many people. For example, in Scripture, priests, prophets, and kings represented the nation of Israel, and fathers represented families. The people were so closely identified with their representatives that God even looked upon the people as if they had done the righteous or the wicked deeds done by their representatives (Beale: 2011, 652). If the representative leader was righteous then the people under his headship were showered with blessing on account of their leader’s righteousness; if the leader was wicked then the people were cursed with judgment on account of their leader’s wickedness. Essentially, the divine fate of the biblical people depended on the deeds of their leaders who represented them.

A prime example of many people being showered with blessing on account of their one representative’s righteousness is Noah’s family. By the time of Genesis 6:5, all of humanity was corrupted and wicked, except one man: Noah.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

God was preparing the judge the entire world with a flood because of their wickedness, but as a corollary of Noah’s righteousness God had grace on him and ordered him to build an ark which would deliver him from the cursed floodwaters. Interestingly, it is not only righteous Noah who is allowed to enter into the ark in order to be delivered from the waters of judgment, but also his entire household, who were under his authority and headship:

“Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you alone and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time’” (Gen. 7:1).

Noah’s household received the blessing of deliverance on account of Noah’s righteousness, for they were represented by his headship. Without Noah’s righteousness, his household would have perished in the flood. Noah’s family was identified with him by the concept of corporate solidarity.

Another example, this one being many people judged with cursing on account of their one representative’s wickedness, is Achan’s family. Upon conquering Jericho in the land of Canaan, the Lord through the mouth Joshua issued a ban on all the spoil of the city:

“Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you [Jericho]. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD. . .as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD’” (Josh. 6:17-19).

In spite of this command, Achan of the tribe of Judah broke the ban and took for himself a mantle, two-hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight (Josh. 7:1, 20-21). His disobedience and unrighteousness brought upon himself the punishment of stoning, not only for him but also for his entire household:

“Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones” (Josh. 7:24-25).

Achan’s household suffered the cursing of judgment on account of Achan’s wickedness, for they were represented by his headship. If it were not for Achan’s disobedience, his household would not have suffered such judgment. Again, Achan’s family was identified with him by the concept of corporate solidarity.

Such identification does not seem fair to us, does it? And as a result of such false presuppositions our present age distances itself from such ‘primitive concepts’. We boast in individualism, proudly sever ties of identification, and look down on anyone who maintains them. This, however, was not the way anyone, either regenerate or reprobate, viewed society throughout antiquity. In fact, until the time of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, just about every culture throughout the history of humanity unashamedly held to the concept of corporate solidarity and scorned anyone who rejected it.

Such a neglect of the concept of corporate solidarity has infiltrated the western church in catastrophic measures. As a result, the notion of covenant children has all but faded and elders are no longer viewed as the congregation’s spiritual representatives before God (these are just two of many examples.) As Christians, we must strive to fight against such post-Enlightenment thinking and labor to revive the concept of corporate solidarity in our churches, not merely because we need to grind against the grain of modern society, but because our salvation depends on its truthfulness.

Adam, our federal representative, disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden by partaking of the forbidden fruit. Since he is our representative, such sin and the death that followed was imputed to all men, even to us living in the twenty-first century. Adam was our federal head, and in him all men under his representation fell from an estate of innocence into an estate of sin and misery and death. We are identified with Adam by the concept of corporate solidarity.

But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ who did not leave us in such an estate of sin and misery and death! For Jesus the Anointed One was a second and greater Adam, who obeyed the Father actively in all things and never fell into transgression like the former, while also giving up His life passively as a vicarious sacrifice for His elect. As a second Adam, He is therefore a federal representative, and all who identify with him receive the imputation of His righteousness and the benefits of His sacrificial death. When God looks upon believers, he no longer identifies them with unrighteous Adam, but instead with the righteous second Adam, Jesus His Son. By faith we are identified with Jesus because of the concept of corporate solidarity (e.g. we are ‘in Christ’) and as a corollary receive salvation and eternal life. Such a concept once brought us into an estate of sin and misery and death, but now it places us presently in an estate of salvation, and ultimately one day will usher us into the eternal estate of glory. Amen.

Romans 5:12-19

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus the Anointed One, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus the Anointed One.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (that is ‘all men’ who identify with Christ, my emphasis). For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, questions 12-21

Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.


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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Forgery, Josephus, And Evidence For Jesus

By: Sean Rice



This post is taken from Bart Ehrman's recently-published book Did Jesus Exist? It has to do with an important piece of evidence for the existence and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the central divine figure of the Christian faith. The layout of Ehrman's arguments has been changed to fit SFAC blog format, but all of the words (besides headings) are original to the well-known atheist/agnostic Bible scholar Bart Ehrman.

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WHO WAS JOSEPHUS AND WHY IS HE IMPORTANT?
"Flavius Josephus is one of the truly important figures from ancient Judaism. His abundant historical writings are our primary source of information about the life and history of Palestine in the first century. He himself was personally involved with some of the most important events that he narrates, especially in his eight-volume work, The Jewish Wars. Josephus was born to an aristocratic family in Palestine some six or seven years after the traditional date of Jesus' death... In his various writings Josephus mentions a large number of Jews, especially as they were important for the social, political, and historical situation in Palestine. As it turns out, he deals briefly also with John the Baptist. And on two occasions, at least in the writings as they have come down to us today, he mentions Jesus of Nazareth."

JOSEPHUS TALKS ABOUT JESUS' BROTHER JAMES
"It is somewhat simpler to deal with these two references [to Jesus of Nazareth] in reverse order. The second of them is very brief and occurs in Book 20 of the Antiquities. Here Josephus is referring to an incident that happened in 62 [AD], before the Jewish uprising, when the local civic and religious leader in Jerusalem, the high priest Ananus, misused his power. The Roman governor had been withdrawn, and in his absence, we are told, Ananus unlawfully put to death a man named James, whom Josephus identifies as 'the brother of Jesus, who is called the messiah' (Antiquities 20.9.1). Here, unlike the pagan references we examined earlier, Jesus is actually called by name. And we learn two things about him: he had a brother named James, and some people thought that he was the messiah. Both points are abundantly attested as well, of course, in our Christian sources, but it is interesting to see that Josephus is aware of them."

THE SO-CALLED 'FORGED' PASSAGE ABOUT JESUS (PART #1)
"[The second passage] is known to scholars as the Testimonium Flavianum, that is, the testimony given by Flavius Josephus to the life of Jesus. It is the longest reference to Jesus that we have considered so far, and it is by far the most important. In the best manuscripts of Josephus it reads as follows:

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the messiah. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wonderous things about him. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out. (Antiquities 18.3.3)
The problems with this passage should be obvious to anyone with even a casual knowledge of Josephus. We know a good deal about him, both from the autobiography that he produced and from other self-references in his writings. He was thoroughly and ineluctably Jewish and certainly never converted to be a follower of Jesus. But this passage contains comments that only a Christian would make: that Jesus was more than a man, that he was the messiah, and that he arose from the dead in fulfilment of the scriptures. In the judgement of most scholars, there is simply no way Josephus the Jew would or could have written such things. So how did these comments get into his writings?"

WAS THIS A FORGERY OR JUST A TOUCH-UP? (PART #2)
"Among his own people [the Jews], Josephus was not a beloved author read through the ages. In fact, his writings were transmitted in the Middle Ages not by Jews but by Christians. This shows how we can explain the extraordinary Christian claims about Jesus in this passage. When Christian scribes copied the text, they added a few words here and there to make sure that the reader would get the point. This is that Jesus, the super-human messiah raised from the dead as the scriptures predicted. The big question is whether a Christian scribe (or scribes) simply added a few choice Christian additions to the passage or whether the entire thing was produced by a Christian and inserted in an appropriate place in Josephus Antiquities.

The majority of scholars of early Judaism, and experts on Josephus, think that it was the former - that one or more Christian scribes 'touched up' the passage a bit. If one takes out the obviously Christian comments, the passage may have been rather innocuous, reading something like this:

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. He was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. When Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.
If this is the original form of the passage, then Josephus had some solid historical information about Jesus's life: Jesus was known for his wisdom and teaching; he was thought to have done remarkable deeds; he had numerous followers; he was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate because of Jewish accusations brought against him; and he continued to have followers among the Christians after his death."

COUNTERING THE ARGUMENTS OF DOUBTERS (PART #3)
"Some have argued, however, that the entire passage was made up by a Christian author and inserted into the writings of Josephus. If that is the case, then possibly the later references to James as 'the brother of Jesus, who is called the messiah' was also interpolated, in order to reinforce the point of the earlier insertion... G.A. Wells has maintained that if one removes the entire Testimonium from its larger context, the preceding paragraph and the one that follows flow together quite nicely. This one seems, then, intrusive. As Earl Doherty rightly notes, however, it was not at all uncommon for ancient writers (who never used footnotes) to digress from their main points, and in fact other digressions can be found in the surrounding context of the passage. So this argument really does not amount to much.

More striking for Earl Doherty is the fact that no Christian authors appear to be aware of this passage intil the church father Eusebius, writing in the early fourth century [the 300's AD]. In the second and third centuries there were many Christian writers (Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and so on) who were intent on defending both Christianity and Jesus himself against charges leveled against him by their opponents. And yet they never, in defense of Jesus, mention this passage of Josephus. Is that really plausible?... This too does not strike me as a strong argument. The pared-down version of Josephus -the one without Christian additions- contains very little that could have been used by the early Christian writers to defend Jesus and his followers from attacks by pagan intellectuals. It is a very neutral statement. The fact that Jesus is said to have been wise or to have done great deeds would not go far in the repertoire of the Christian apologists... if one reads the passage without the rose-tinted lenses of the Christian tradition, its view of Jesus can be seen as basically negative. The fact that he was opposed by the leaders of the Jewish people would no doubt have shown that he was not an upright Jew. And the fact that he was condemned to crucifixion, the most horrific execution imaginable to a Roman audience, speaks for itself."

"What I did not stress earlier but need to point out now is that there is absolutely nothing to suggest that the pagan Tacitus or the Jewish Josephus acquired their information about Jesus by reading the Gospels. They heard information about him. That means the information the gave predated their writings. Indirectly, then, Tacitus and (possibly) Josephus provide independent attestation to Jesus's existence from outside the Gospels although, as I stated earlier, in doing so they do not give us information that is unavailable in our other sources."

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This might have been thick reading (and I chose to cut a lot of Ehrman's material out!), but this is important information to have when it comes to whether Jesus existed. I hope it's been helpful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tell Your Story


By: Nathan Fox



What Spurred This Post
A few days ago Ashley (my fiancĂ©e) and I were at church, and really we were just talking to people after the service. A man in our church walked up to Ashley and I and saw our Marriage Counseling books that we are working through in preparation for our life together; immediately seeing our books spurred a conversation between the three of us. This man ended up telling us his story of a failed marriage due to his inability to “stay in God’s Word and to communicate with his wife.” He told us of a season of his life that was utterly lost, as he was addicted to drugs and was even arrested for running a meth operation. I knew his story, but had never heard him so purposefully open in telling it. Here was this man who didn’t know Ashley and barely knew me giving us advice on marriage through his testimony, which was a true blessing to hear.
The true irony in all of this is that later on that night I was reading through Acts chapter 22. It is in this chapter that Paul is found giving his own testimony (to a group of Jews that hated him no less, which I posted about last week). He covered everything about his conversion story, from his life before Christ (found in verses 3-5), his heart change (6-11), and his life since (12-21). He told of his radical conversion from killing Christians to being close to death for Christ. He told of the moment that He met Jesus and everything else in between. And remember, this was all to a group that hated him as evidenced by chapter 21! These Jews didn’t want to hear his story, but he told it anyways. They didn’t want to hear that God had made him an apostle for the Gentiles, but He pronounced it anyways. Paul told his life story (which was not the only time in Scripture he went into detail about his conversion), and in doing so we see an important point that should resonate with us today: God gave each believer a unique story for His glory.

Do Not Be Ashamed of Your Past…
I read of Paul’s willingness to share his testimony and it excites me! It makes me bolder in my attempt to share the story of my life, and how God changed me just as He changed Paul. If you read my biography you would know where I have come from. You would know that I struggled with an eating disorder that cost me everything from friends to dating relationships, to even my beloved basketball. It is easy for me to want to forget my past, because it was so painful for me to go through. I can’t even begin to describe the emotional and mental hurt that I experienced in that time. I am honestly tearing up as I write this; because what I went through is a pain I cannot even come close to describing. It is easy for me to want to forget it all, but I can’t. I can’t take back what happened any more that than I can control my favorite sports teams winning. What has happened is something that is in the past, and as time has gone on I have embraced it just as Paul did. I am not proud of it (and I am quite sure Paul was not proud of his past either), but I can tell you that when I tell my story I include my past because it is in entire story that God gets the glory.

But Instead Tell Your Story to Give God the Glory
I have learned that by giving my entire testimony God is honored and glorified. As I give my testimony, I highlight just how far He has brought me. I highlight just how much He has done in my life and in doing so He truly does get the glory of changing a broken, hell-bent boy into a growing, loving man. I am so proud of my God, and so proud that He can still change lives just as He changed Paul’s life and my life. God is still very much in the business of changing lives, but it might be that he changes someone’s life through your story. Each believer has a unique testimony in which God transformed their life. I urge you to tell it to anyone you know. What a privilege it is that we have a story to tell, let alone a story that could change someone else’s stance toward God. Numerous times my story has spurred people to praise God, and even in some cases has been a prelude of someone giving their life to God. My testimony has been used by God to bring people to Himself! What a joy that is for me to experience!
I am telling you from believer to believer to tell your story. Give your testimony as often as you can, just as Paul did. It is uniquely yours and can truly be used by God to change the life of another. Whether it is a simple story or not doesn’t matter; it is your story! Share it with someone, and pray that God would use it to bring changed people into His Kingdom. At the very least, telling your story will bring you to praise God for giving you a story to begin with. At most, it could be the catalyst for someone to receive Jesus. In it all, God is glorified. And that is why we tell our story: for His glory. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Called To Be Saints (Part One)




After arriving home from my last day of first grade, I announced to my parents how glad I was that school was finally over, and that I did not have to go back ever again. My parents’ expressions waxed blank. It took at least thirty seconds before one of them, my father I think, broke the news that I would have to go back that fall, after the summer was over. My joy had instantly turned to mourning.

“For how long?” I asked.
“For another year,” he said.

As difficult as that sounded, another year might not be too bad. I had made it through one. I could do it again. And then it would be all over. . . .

A thought came that nearly knocked the wind out of me.

“What about after that? Was there any more school after that?”
“Yes,” came the hesitant reply.
“Well, how long?”
“Twelve years. . . in all.”
“TWELVE!” I bellowed.

To a six year old (I started when I was five), that was like saying it would be a zillion millennia.

As one may correctly guess, when I approached graduation in my senior year, I did so with great joy and gladness. The word that was on everyone’s mind in my class was vocation. What were you going to do the rest of your life? This was 1966, and the Vietnam War was raging. Many in my class went off to war. As far as I can tell, only two died there (my graduating class was over eight-hundred), one of them ten days after he arrived. I went off to college. . . Bible college, in fact. In those days, unless you were in college, you were drafted. Many went off to college for that very reason, to avoid the draft. I did not. I went to Bible college because I had aspirations of becoming involved in the ministry. That trumped everything else in the world, and I had no guilt in being there. Looking back on it today, I know what I did was right, but I sometimes grieve deeply over the thought that others did go and paid dearly. They were not able to follow their vocational goals as I did.

The word vocation literally means, calling. When you talk about vocation you are talking about your calling in life, that is, What have you been called to do for a living? It is fascinating to me that the idea of a calling is bandied about by all men, believing and unbelieving, Christian and pagan, alike. They use the word to refer to what they want to do, are doing, or have done as their professional career. But they never stop to think that if one has a calling, it means he has been called, and if called, there is a caller. I wonder if the atheist Richard Dawkins ever considered who it was that called him to be a biologist. Perhaps he sees a danger in that and avoids the word vocation. I really do not know.

Several years ago, I taught a series of Adult Sunday School lessons through Philippians that took a year to complete. Looking back at my notes I saw that I spent some time on the phrase, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus,” recorded in Paul’s greeting (Phil 1:1). The concept of sainthood spurred me on to discuss the biblical notion of calling, for those who are saints are such because they are called to be saints (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:1). A number of New Testament texts can be laid out to give us a rather clear idea of what it means for us who are ‘called to be saints,’ and over the next few weeks, we will consider these.

Today, consider 1 Cor 1:9 wherein we are told that we are ‘called into the fellowship of his (God’s) Son.’ To understand this fully would require a good deal of time on the meaning of fellowship. Suffice it to say that fellowship here and elsewhere has the etymological notion of sharing something in common, and semantically conveys the idea that two or more people are enjoying each other’s company because they are not at odds with each other, they are in agreement and harmony. They like the same things, have the same outlook, or to put it philosophically, they hold fervently to the same world-and-life view.

Light and darkness, righteousness and lawlessness do not have the same interests in mind; they are polar spheres, exact opposites; therefore, Paul asks rhetorically, What fellowship do they have? (2 Cor 6:14) There is none. John tells us that God is light and there is not even one particle of darkness in him. If we say that we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness we lie and are not doing (let alone not telling) the truth, 1 John 1:4, 5. Hence to be called into fellowship with Jesus Christ means to be called into a way of life that typifies the kind of life Christ lived, who exercised all the fruits of the Spirit in great measure, Luke 2:40, 52. Christ was sinless, perfect, and holy without measure. To be called into fellowship with him is to share in that freedom from sin and to walk in the light as he is in the light.

So, we must take a hard look at ourselves. Are we walking in freedom from sin? (Rom 6:1-14) Are we walking in his likeness? (1 John 2:6) Are we pursuing holiness without which no man will see the Lord? (Heb 12:14) This is not a calling to sinless perfection in the present evil age. Rather, it is a calling to make a conscious and continuous effort to be holy; and when we sin, to repent quickly and gladly, looking to our Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous who is the sacrifice that satisfies God’s justice for our sins, 1 John 2:1, 2.
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