Thursday, October 23, 2014

Psalm 133 – The Blessing of Unity (Teaching Outline)

Note: As with most of the the other outlines I have posted on this blog, this expositional outline was originally used for teaching on a Sunday morning at Immanuel Baptist Church, where I have been blessed to serve as the primary teaching elder for more than twenty years. This outline is yet another sample of the kind of expository teaching to which we Reformed Baptist pastors are committed and about which we are so passionate. If you wish to hear the audio of the teaching from back in 2012, you can listen here.

Introduction: What measures did you take to prepare your heart before you came here this morning to worship the Lord? Did you spend time in prayer about it last night? Did you pray about it when you woke up this morning? Did you perhaps sing or listen to worship songs at home or in the car on the way here? Or did you do nothing in particular? If not, then I encourage you to pay special attention to this morning's teaching, for we will see that David thought it was very important to prepare our hearts as we come together as a community of believers to worship the Lord. It is my hope that we will all learn from him today more about how we ought to come before the Lord in worship.

Notice first of all that this psalm has a title: “A Song of Ascents. Of David.” The Songs of Ascents are made up of Psalms 120-134. These fifteen Psalms were apparently written to be sung by the people of the Lord as they went up to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. They may therefore be regarded as songs designed to prepare the hearts of the people for worship in the Temple. As we shall see in Psalm 133, this meant that the people were prepared for worship only if they recognized the blessing and importance of doing so as a part of a community of the faithful. With this in mind, let's turn our attention now to verse 1.
NKJ  Psalm 133:1 Behold [הִנֵּה, hinnēh], how good and how pleasant it is for brethren [אָח, āḥ] to dwell together in unity!
Charles Spurgeon comments helpfully on David's call to “behold” the unity of the brethren when he writes:
It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention. (Treasury of David, e-Sword).
I think he has captured well the sense of wonder and excitement David wants us to have as we consider with him the blessing of the brethren who live together before the Lord in unity. But it is important to recognize that, when David speaks of the “brethren” here, he does not have in mind only close family relationships. Rather he has in mind at a minimum all of his fellow Israelites who find their unity in their common commitment to the Law of God. This is in keeping with other Old Testament uses of the Hebrew word for brother or brethren, which also clearly demonstrate such a meaning. For example, let's take a look at just a few instances in the Book of Deuteronomy:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 15:1-3 At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD's release. 3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother [אָח, āḥ] ….
Notice that a “brother” here is not just a member of one's immediate family, but anyone who is not a foreigner, even if that person is poor. In other words, a brother is a fellow Israelite, no matter what his social standing. We see the same thing as we look further on in the same passage:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 15:12 If your brother [אָח, āḥ], a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.
Again we see that a fellow Israelite is regarded as a “brother” even if he is of inferior social standing, in this case even if he is a slave.
NKJ  Deuteronomy 25:1-3 If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. 3 Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother [אָח, āḥ] be humiliated in your sight.
Notice in this case that a fellow Israelite is to be regarded as a “brother” even if he has offended you and deserves to be punished. And because he is your brother you should want to be merciful to him even if you have to inflict punishment upon him.

Thus we have seen that the Old Testament usage of the term brother could refer not just to one's immediate family, but to anyone who is a fellow Israelite. However, I would argue that David's usage of the term here, while similarly broader than simply one's own immediate family, is nevertheless restricted to only some other Israelites, namely those who are like-minded in their commitment to the Lord. For in this context David has in mind all of those who come together to worship the Lord, no matter who they are. He is speaking, then, of the community of the faithful as though they are themselves a family, a spiritual family, if you will.

Remember that this is a “Song of Ascents,” intended to be sung by the faithful who travel to Jerusalem and go up to the Temple to worship. So, when David refers to the “brethren” in verse 1, he means all those who come to worship God together, no matter who they are – no matter what their social or economic standing (Deut. 15:3,12), and no matter whether or not they may have offended you at some point (Deut. 25:3).

But, although David wrote this Psalm to be sung as one ascended up to Jerusalem and to the Temple to worship, and in order to describe the unity of such people, he clearly intends that the unity expressed as they worship together should also be present in the totality of their lives as they “dwell together” – or live together – in the land. Otherwise, they could not sing this song with sincerity when they came to worship. 

David is assuming, then, that sincere worship is reflected in our lives and in the way we treat one another, and he is assuming that sincere worship can only take place when we live together in unity as we should. In this he anticipates Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, when He said:
NKJ  Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus clearly assumes that we cannot truly worship the Lord if there is a problem in our relationship with a brother, if there is a sin that has not been reconciled. Thus we may see that because of our sins we may often have obstacles to unity.

William Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s Seminary, reminds us of the potential obstacles to unity the ancient Israelite believers may themselves have faced as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship:
Pilgrims faced not only the potential disharmony within individual families, but the tensions of getting along with others in competition for the same resources for lodging, food, and water. In addition, there may have been clan rivalries that could disrupt the peace of a pilgrim encampment after days of weary travel. (Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs: The Master Musician’s Melodies, p. 2)
We too experience many obstacles to genuine worship don't we? For example, we also have to travel to worship the Lord together on Sunday morning, and there may be any number of distractions as we travel, ranging from bad drivers on the road, unexpected delays, cranky children in the back seat, a cold shoulder from a spouse that we should have told we were sorry for something we said or did the night before, the sudden reminder of a problem at work, and so on. 

But despite such obstacles, the Lord would have us remember “how good and how pleasant”  it is for us to live together in unity with our spiritual brothers and sisters. This will help to motivate us to put things right with others before we come to worship Him. It will help us to remember that we must not only love God with all our heart, but that we cannot really do so if we do not also love our brother.

However, we might be thinking about how hard this is, and we might be wondering how on earth we could ever come consistently before the Lord with such love and unity between us. Well, David points us to the answer in the next two verses, where he reminds us of the fact that such unity is first and foremost a blessing that comes from God.
NKJ  Psalm 133:2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down[יָרַד, yāraḏ] on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down[יָרַד, yāraḏ] on the edge of his garments.
At first we might be wondering what on earth oil running down Aaron's beard has to do with unity, or with how good and pleasant unity is! How can unity be like oil? Well, perhaps we will understand better if we find out a bit more about this oil. For the “precious oil” mentioned here is oil that was especially mixed with spices and was to be used only for the anointing of the priests and the articles of the Tabernacle – and later the Temple. We read about this precious oil in Exodus 30:
NKJ  Exodus 30:22-33 Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Also take for yourself quality spices – five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, 24 five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; 27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; 28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. 30 And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests. 31 And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on man's flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.'” 
So, we see that, in comparing the goodness and pleasantness of unity between believers to the precious anointing oil, David pictures this unity as something that is special, valuable, unique, giving off a sweet aroma – i.e. creating a pleasant atmosphere around us – and, above all, he pictures such unity as something that is holy. This oil signifies that which is precious to God. And the anointing of Aaron with this oil signified God's special blessing upon him.

David also describes this oil as “running down” Aaron's beard and his garments. So, he wishes for us to see our unity not only as a special sign of God's blessing, but as a sign of His blessing poured out in abundance.
NKJ  Psalm 133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, descending [יָרַד, yāraḏ] upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing -- Life forevermore.
Willem VanGemeren describes the significance of this metaphor when he writes:
Because of the high altitude of Mount Hermon (nearly ten thousand feet above sea level) and the precipitation in the forms of rain, snow, and dew, Mount Hermon was proverbial for its lush greenery even during the summer months … and for its dew that sustained the vegetation. (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol.5, p. 817)
David describes the unity of God's people as they live and worship together as though the dew of Hermon had descended upon Zion. He thus pictures God's people living and worshiping together in unity as something that is so refreshing that it is as though God had caused the dew of Hermon to fall upon Jerusalem.

When David says “there” the LORD commanded the blessing, he perhaps means at Zion, the particular place where God's people came to worship. But it is likely that by “there” he simply means wherever God's people live and worship in unity. Derek Kidner was right on when he wrote:
The second half of verse 3, with its strong accent on God's initiative (commanded) and on what is only His to give (life forevermore), clinches another emphasis of the psalm, which is made by a threefold repetition, partly lost in translation: literally, 'descending' (2a)… 'descending' (2b)…  'descending' (3a). In short, true unity, like all good gifts, is from above; bestowed rather than contrived, a blessing far more than an achievement. (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Vol. 14b, p. 453)
By ending with a focus on the ultimate blessing of Godeverlasting life – as something experienced in unity with God's people, David emphasizes a very important fact that too many do not understand in the Church, namely that we are not fully experiencing the joy of the life we have from God if we are not experiencing it together! Where there is not real unity among believers, there is lacking also a full expression of the life of the age to come in the here and now!

Paul made essentially the same point when he addressed some issues that could potentially disrupt the unity of the church in Rome:
NKJ  Romans 14:13-19 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Jesus also taught this important truth when He said that our joy would be full in the experience of love toward one another:
NKJ  John 15:9-12 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Conclusion: It is my hope that today we will all commit ourselves more fully and passionately than ever to Christ and to His body, the Church. We must never forget that the Christian faith is about relationships. It is about our relationship first to God, and then to one another, and these two spheres of interpersonal relationships cannot be severed. As the Apostle John reminds us:
NKJ  1 John 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mark Driscoll Resigns From Mars Hill Church

In an article entitled BREAKING: Mark Driscoll resigns from Mars Hill Church, Religion News Service broke the story today that Mark Driscoll has resigned as pastor of Mars Hill Church. Here is the opening portion of the article:
(RNS) Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS. 
The divisive Seattle pastor had announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him. Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation. 
“Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family — even physically unsafe at times — and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill,” Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter.
Driscoll was not asked to resign from the church he started 18 years ago, according to a letter from the church’s board of overseers. “Indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter,” they wrote.
RNS appears to have done a thorough and fair job of reporting on this issue, and the articles linked should put things in perspective as far as the order of events and basic issues are involved. It is sad to see such a failure, but it is not altogether unexpected when a man begins his ministry as a maverick who was unqualified to pastor when he first took on the task anyway. Let us all learn from this just how important it is not to put a novice into pastoral ministry and then proceed to enable him for years simply because he becomes popular.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Christ Our Kinsman Redeemer

Note: The following is a teaching outline on Ruth 2:20, in which Boaz is described as a goël – a kinsman redeemer – which not only enabled him to become an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ but also enabled him to serve as a type of Christ as well.

Introduction: The LORD adopts a number of metaphors by which He reveals to us the salvation He has wrought on our behalf. Among these metaphors is the metaphor of redemption, which literally refers to the action taken and the price paid to redeem someone from poverty or slavery. In fact, God later takes up the very term used of Boaz in the second chapter of Ruth in order to describe Himself as our Redeemer. Let's take a look again at the account in Ruth to see where this term is first used:
NKJ  Ruth 2:20 “Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!' And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation [קָרֹב, lit. a near one] of ours, one of our close relatives [גֹּאֵל, goël, Qal Participle > גָּאַל, gā’al, redeem].”
A person could act as a goël – or redeemer – on behalf of another family member in a number of instances. For example, the New Geneva Study Bible correctly lists at least four ways in which this could be done:
The law of redemption now comes into view. According to this law, the nearest male blood relative had the duty of preserving the family name and property. This duty could entail (a) avenging the death of a family member (Num. 35:19-21); (b) buying back family property that had been sold to pay debts (Lev. 25:25); (c)  buying back a relative who had sold himself into slavery to pay debts (Lev. 25:47-49); and (d) marrying the widow of a deceased relative (Deut. 25:5-10).
It is this latter means of acting as a kinsman-redeemer that is in view in the Book of Ruth, where Boaz marries Ruth in order to provide an heir for her deceased husband Mahlon, but this role is combined with Boaz's redemption of the land that had belonged to Naomi's husband and brothers as well (4:3-10). Let's take a few minutes, then, to review one of the key passages that describes the role of such a kinsman-redeemer so that we can get in our minds the proper background for our study of how it foreshadows the salvation we now have in Christ. The passage we will examine focuses particularly on the redemption of a family member from slavery:
NKJ  Leviticus 25:25, 47-49 “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative [גֹּאֵל, goël] comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. [And then later in the passage we read…] 47 Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger's family, 48 after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; 49 or his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.”
Notice that there are at least three conditions that must be in place if one is going to be helped by a goël: 1) The goël must be a kinsman, 2) he must possess the means to pay price of redemption, and 3) he must be willing to do so, for the text says that the kinsman may redeem his brother from slavery, not that he must do it. As we consider the way that God took up the metaphor of the goël and applied it to His own saving action in Christ, these factors will become important in our understanding of what He has done. But first we must see 1) how God described Himself as our Goël, 2) how He promised a Messiah who would be our Goël, and 3) how Jesus became our Goël in fulfillment of God's promise.

I. God Described Himself as Our Goël

In fact, this is a special theme in the Book of Isaiah, where the term goël is used repeatedly and exclusively in reference to the LORD Himself. For example:
NKJ  Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël], the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.'”
NKJ  Isaiah 44:24 “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël], and He who formed you from the womb: 'I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself….'”
NKJ  Isaiah 47:4 “As for our Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël], the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.”
NKJ  Isaiah 48:17 “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël], the Holy One of Israel: 'I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.'”
NKJ  Isaiah 54:5-6 “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël] is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. 6 For the LORD has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,' Says your God.'”
NKJ  Isaiah 54:8 “'With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness [חֶסֶד, ḥeseḏ] I will have mercy on you,' Says the LORD, your Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël].”
This last reference is particularly noteworthy, in that it combines a reference to God as our Goël with His ḥeseḏ (kindness) toward us, and this is similar to the way these concepts are combined in Ruth chapter 2. Recall again Naomi's words in verse 20:
NKJ  Ruth 2:20 “Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness [חֶסֶד, ḥeseḏ] to the living and the dead!' And Naomi said to her, 'This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives [גֹּאֵל, goël].'”
Even so God describes His work as our Goël as a manifestation of His everlasting kindness toward us (Isa. 54:8), which led to His promise of salvation through Christ. And this brings us to the second point.

II. God Promised a Messiah Who Would Be Our Goël

The LORD describes how He will redeem His people in a key passage found in Isaiah 52-53. Let's take a brief look at a a couple portions of this passage:
NKJ  Isaiah 52:9-10 “Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed [גָּאַל, gā’al] Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
After this the LORD speaks of a servant who would come in the so-called “servant song” beginning in 52:13 and extending all the way through 53:12. Let's just read verses 1-6 of chapter 53:
NKJ  Isaiah 53:1-6 “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” [Note: Peter applies this text to Jesus our Savior in 1 Pet. 2:24-25.]
We see here that the promised Messiah would be a suffering servant who would die in our place and bear our sins, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve. He would pay the price to redeem us from slavery to sin. This is why, later on in Isaiah, the Lord specifically refers to the coming Servant or Messiah in the same way He has referred to Himself, as a Goël:
NKJ  Isaiah 59:20 “'The Redeemer [גֹּאֵל, goël] will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,' Says the LORD.”
The Apostle Paul cites this passage with reference to the work of Christ in Romans 11:
NKJ  Romans 11:25-27 “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer [ῥύομαι, based on LXX] will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.'” [Note: Paul seems to combine his citation of Isa. 59:20-21 with allusions to Ps. 14:7 (“salvation… out of Zion”) and Isa. 27:9 (“taking away… sin”).]
And so we have found not only that the LORD repeatedly referred to Himself as our Goël, but that He also referred to the promised Messiah as our Goël. So let's turn our attention now to the last point.

III. Jesus Became our Goël in Fulfillment of God's Promise

Remember that earlier we saw that there are at least three conditions that must be in place if one is going to be helped by a goël: 1) The goël must be a kinsman, 2) he must possess the means to pay price of redemption, and 3) he must be willing to do so. I would submit to you that all three of these conditions were met by Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.

First, Jesus was a kinsman who could serve as our Redeemer. He was one of our brethren. In fact, this was a primary purpose of the incarnation, as the author of Hebrews makes quite clear:
NKJ  Hebrews 2:9-11, 14-17 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren …. [Then in verse 14 he stresses that …] 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Second, Jesus possessed the means to serve as our Redeemer. He alone was able to pay the price of redemption. Consider, for example, the words of the Apostle Peter:
NKJ  1 Peter 1:17-19 “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Third, Jesus was willing to act as our Redeemer. He was willing to give His life as the price for our redemption. In fact, Jesus Himself made this perfectly clear when He said:
NKJ  John 10:14-18 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Conclusion: I hope that we have gained through this brief study a greater appreciation for how the LORD has acted to save us through His Son Jesus Christ. And I hope we have gained a greater appreciation for how the work of the goël Boaz– the kinsman redeemer – foreshadowed His saving work.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

e-Sword 10.4 Update

I have been a long time user of e-Sword (alongside BibleWorks) and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a free Bible study software program that rivals many that you would have to pay for and is better that most. This program also makes basic word studies a breeze and has been of great use to those in my congregation to whom I have recommended it. In fact, they often tell me that they love the layout and how user-friendly the program is. There is not a very steep learning curve with this program, so most anyone can catch on to it quickly. But with its recent update to version 10.4, an already great program has gotten even better. For those interested, here is the rest of the list of updates in the latest version:
New Find on Page button located next to the Search button on each view's toolbar. This Find feature makes locating content easier on large articles, such as those in many commentaries, dictionaries and reference books.
New User Files Location field in the Resources dialog (under the Options menu) for customizing where you wish for your user files to be located. This is very convenient for setting up with backup or synchronizing programs, such as Dropbox. Initially these files will still default to your "My Documents\e-Sword\" directory, but now you can easily change that!
Fixed Editor issue where it could possibly give a formatting error and not save the changes.
Although a number of modules have been developed for purchase by eStudySource, the list of free modules grows daily. There are quite a few free modules already offered at the e-Sword downloads page, such as John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, the Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, or A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. This list has grown steadily over the years. There is also a growing list of free modules available at BibleSupport.com, about which I have previously posted here.

For those interested in finding out more about the program, Christian Computing Magazine has also recently written a series of favorable reviews of the software:
Give it a try, and let us know what you think.

In case you are interested in how I am currently using the program, here is a screenshot of the passage I am studying for this coming Sunday:


Click on the screenshot in order to enlarge it, and you can see that I have purchased a few modules but also that I have many modules that I have downloaded for free from BibleSupport.com.

Friday, September 26, 2014

James White Discussion With KJV-Only Advocate Steven Anderson



Thanks to Drew Mery over at the Reformed Baptist Daily blog for drawing my attention to this interview. As Drew states:
Steven Anderson, a King James Only advocate, interviewed James White as part of a video documentary on the (supposed) corruption of non-KJV translations. The documentary only contains a very brief segment of the 2.5 hour interview that took place between them. The following video is the full interview.
In this interview Dr. White does a masterful job of interacting with a staunch advocate of the KJV-Only position. He is patient and loving as he listens to Steven, but he is uncompromising in the position he takes. As usual, he serves as a very good example of how to interact with those who are in error. If you are interested in reading Dr. White's book on the subject, which I consider to be the best available, you can find it here.

By the way, I am not sure how I missed it up to now, but the Reformed Baptist Daily blog looks to be a very solid and helpful blog. Well done Drew!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Will Scott Brown Answer My Challenge?

A little over a month ago I posted a blog article entitled Answering Scott Brown's Challenge Concerning Age Segregated Education. In that article I challenged Scott Brown, the director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) and a major advocate of the Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM), either to show that my arguments for age segregated instruction in the churches clearly are not Biblical or to revise his statements asserting that such a Biblical case has not or could not be made. As the blog's readers no doubt know, over a year ago I had written a three part series offering a Biblical defense of age segregated instruction in the churches and, as I noted in the aforementioned article, I had let Brown know about my own series in a comment on his blog. Then, when I posted last month's article, I even sent him an email message via his church's website, to which I have received no response. In addition, on August 23 I posted the following message on the NCFIC Facebook page:
Scott Brown has publicly asserted that he has never seen a Biblical case for the use of age segregated instruction in the churches, but I wrote a series of blog articles over a year ago presenting such a case. I have invited Scott Brown to respond here: http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2014/08/answering-scott-browns-challenge.html [This note is visible if you scroll down the page and look on the left-hand side in the "Posts to Page" section. By the way, the only "Like" it received was from my wife.]
I also received no response to this Facebook posting. So, now I am writing a second blog article to call upon Scott Brown to defend his arguments. As I see it, if he is going to publicly say things like, "I have yet to hear a biblical case for age segregation. Why? Because it does not exist in Scripture" (here), or things like, "After many years, I have never seen a credible exegetical argument FOR age segregation. I have heard dozens of arguments for age segregation that are not based upon the Bible, but none that are grounded upon the Bible" (here), then it behooves him to back it up when challenged. This is especially so since his organization currently has this statement in Article XI of its Biblical Confession For Uniting Church And Family:
We affirm that there is no scriptural pattern for comprehensive age segregated discipleship, and that age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church ....
These are the kinds of accusations that Scott Brown and other FICM advocates have leveled at the rest of us for years -- even those of us in Reformed Baptist circles -- simply because we may have age segregated Sunday school classes in our churches. They have essentially accused us all of having given up faithfulness to Scripture in favor of "evolutionary and secular thinking." So, as I see it, since such extreme and unfair accusations regarding age segregated education are present in the foundational document of Brown's organization, and since he has apparently based such accusations upon the assumption that there is no Biblical case to be made for such a practice, he has an obligation to respond to someone who has publicly challenged his assertions. Yet, unless I have missed it while doing numerous internet searches, no such response has been made. Will he respond? Will anyone of note in this movement respond? I guess we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I guess I will also have to get used to the sound of crickets chirping.

Monday, September 08, 2014

"Why Does the Universe Look So Old?" by Albert Mohler



This video contains a message delivered by Dr. Albert Mohler at the Tough Questions Christians Face: 2010 National Conference. In it he argues for a literal 24-hour days in Genesis 1, and he discusses the great exegetical and theological importance of this issue. Ultimately he therefore holds to a young earth view.

Dr. Mohler outlines four basic options for understanding the opening chapter of Genesis: 1) the traditional 24-hour calendar day view, 2) the day-age theory, 3) the framework theory, and 4) the literary myth view. After briefly describing each view, he concludes:
Now what do these have to do with the age of the earth? Well of all of these options, only the understanding of a 24-hour day creation necessitates a young earth. The rest of them all allow for, if they do not directly imply or assume, a very old earth. As we work backwards in terms of evangelical options, the idea that Genesis is merely literary has to be rejected out of hand as in direct contradiction to our understanding of the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God. That option, for any credible and faithful evangelical Christian, must be taken off the table. So then we are left with the framework theory, held by some prominent evangelicals but, I would argue, one of the least defensible positions when we understand that it is based upon the assumption, not only that there may be a very long period of time that is involved and incorporated in Genesis 1 and in the sequence of the days, but actually that the sequence does not matter. It simply is not credible, at least to me, that God gave us this text with such rich detail and sequential development merely that we would infer from it his providential direction without any specific reference to all the direct content he has given us within the text. It certainly seems by any common sense natural reading of the text that it is making historical and sequential claims.
The Day-Age view, working backwards, is much more attractive on theological grounds—much more attractive on exegetical grounds. It involves far fewer entanglements and issues, but as we shall see it involves issues that go even beyond exegeses. (30:24)
The first thing we need to note, as has been noted by even more liberal scholars such as James Barr, is that any natural reading of the text would indicate that the author intended us to take 24-hour days, calendar days, as our understanding. I am arguing for the exegetical and theological necessity of affirming 24-hour calendar days.
Dr. Mohler then goes on to discuss the important exegetical and theological issues involved, concluding that the earth may look old to us but that it is actually young. He ultimately asserts:
I want to suggest to you that when it comes to the confrontation between evolutionary theory and the Christian gospel we have a head-on collision. In the confrontation between secular science and the scripture we have a head-on collision. I want to suggest to you that it is our responsibility to give an answer when we are asked the question “Why does the universe look so old?” In the limitations of time, it is impossible that we walk through every alternative and answer every sub-question. But I want to suggest to you that the most natural understanding from the scripture of how to answer that question comes to this: The universe looks old because the creator made it whole. When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God. He put Adam in the garden. The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.
Secondly—and very quickly—if I’m asked why does the universe look so old, I have to say it looks old because it bears testimony to the affects of sin. And testimony of the judgment of God. It bears the effects of the catastrophe of the flood and catastrophes innumerable thereafter. I would suggest to you that the world looks old because as Paul says in Romans chapter 8 it is groaning. And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin. And even as this cosmos is the theater of God’s glory, it is the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption that takes place here on this planet in telling the story of the redemptive love of God. Is this compatible with the claim that the universe is 4.5 billion years old in terms of earth, 13.5 billion years old in terms of the larger universe? Even though that may not be the first and central question it is an inescapable question and I would suggest to you that in our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.
At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question “why does the universe look so old?” I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.
I encourage the blog's readers to watch the video and to give Dr. Mohler's arguments careful consideration. The transcript of the message (quoted above) can be found here if you wish to read along while listening.

Friday, September 05, 2014

"A Few Thoughts for Consideration in the Modern Republication Debate"

The Particular Voices blog recently posted a brief article entitled A Few Thoughts for Consideration in the Modern Republication Debate. The article offers for Presbyterians a summary of points in favor and against the notion that the Mosaic Covenant is a republication of the Covenant of Works. Here is the primary portion of the post for your consideration.
These thoughts are directed primarily at members in the OPC and PCA.
For those contra republication:
1. The view that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works is a view found among Reformed divines in the 17th and 16th centuries.
2. The Westminster Confession of Faith is not the exclusive expression or boundary of Reformed orthodoxy.
For those pro republication:
1. The fact that a given divine at the Westminster Assembly held to a given view does not mean that the Confession itself either reflects, includes, or accounts for their view. They debated many things. The conclusion of the debates was a majority vote in one direction, not a unanimous vote.
2. A covenant of works and a covenant of grace are as different as wood and stone. They are different “substances.” If the Mosaic covenant is a formal covenant of works (not just containing a remembrance of Adam’s covenant) it cannot be the covenant grace. See John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (London: Printed by G. Miller, 1645), 93-95. Ball is discussing John Cameron’s view that the Mosaic covenant (the old covenant) is neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace but a legal covenant for the nation of Israel to live life in the land of Canaan. Ball concludes that this view makes the old covenant differ from the new in substance. See also John Owen, A Continuation of the Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, 1680), 324-42. Owen considers the majority view as expressed in the WCF and rejects it because he views the Mosaic covenant as a works covenant for life in the land. This is the result of the simple logic of substance as applied to covenant theology.
My thanks to Richard Barcellos for drawing this to my attention. The whole article is posted here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Mark Driscoll Steps Down From Mars Hill Church

It has recently been reported that Mark Driscoll will Step Down While Mars Hill Reviews Charges. The same article details the fallout in other ways. For example, Mars Hill canceled its fall Resurgence Conference, and "After Acts 29 removed Driscoll from its membership, LifeWay Christian Resources, the nation’s second largest Christian book retailer, pulled Driscoll’s books from its website and 186 stores." Here is the video of Mark's statement before his church family, in which he discusses stepping down:



You can read the text of the statement here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Are Not Neutral

“Let’s buy it, dad!” These were the words that darted out of my mouth as soon as I saw the cool yellow truck with its custom rims and ground effects. Immediately I could proudly see myself driving it to school. Not only was it cool, I couldn't believe it was in my price range. This could be mine, so I thought.

My father responded with the dreaded but predictable words, “We need to test drive it first.” Though this sounds only reasonable, you must realize that I was young and poor. My parents promised to help me buy my first vehicle by doubling all the money I earned over the summer. I worked hard, but only saved $900.00. And even back in the early nineties, you could not expect much for $1,800.00. The last thing I wanted was some grandma wagon.

So when I saw this customized truck, I was ready to pull the trigger without any investigation. In fact, I didn't want to test drive it, for deep down I knew it was too good to be true. If we happen to discover its mechanical problems, I knew my father would stand in the way of me being cool. You see, I thought if we bought it before we learned that it needed repairs, though more money would be needed to get the thing running, the most important thing would be accomplished – I would have a respectable looking ride to show off to all my friends. The truth is, I didn't want to know the truth, for I assumed that the truth would stand in the way of my happiness.

As you can imagine, when we opened the hood, it was missing half of its engine. Yep, too good to be true. I ended up with my dad’s old, brown, farm truck – dependable but no ground effects.

I realize now that I was willing to overlook all the blaring red flags and knowingly do something foolish because of my foolish pride. My emotions, my pride, and my inverted values hindered my judgment. I was not objective or rational because I did not want to be objective or rational.

Foolishness is living in opposition to what we know to be true. I am afraid this irrational condition and manner of thinking is universally prevalent in all of us. We are not merely irrational every now and then. Without God, we live in a state of irrationality.

Only irrational fools would consistently and practically deny that 2 + 2 = 4. Not only is the answer to this equation a part of common sense, it is easily demonstrable and highly useful. If a postmodern thinker practically rejects the absolute and universal principles of mathematics, he may applaud himself for being consistent with his relativistic worldview, but in the process his checkbook will be a total mess. Regardless of what we claim we believe about the laws of math, we cannot live consistently without practically submitting ourselves to them. For this and many other reasons it is intellectually difficult to deny the absolute and universal nature of mathematics.

The same is true concerning the truth of Scripture. Scripture does not merely provide a few isolated, unrelated, and discounted truths; it gives us the only complete and cohesive worldview that provides meaning and rationale to the universe. In other words, without the Bible, nothing makes sense in the grand scheme of things. As the Psalmist says, “In your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

Yet, if the Bible provides us with the only cohesive system of thought, why is it so hated and rejected by so many? If it is impossible to disprove the truth claims of the Bible, why is it so despised and ridiculed by some of the brightest and smartest minds? Do you want to know the truth? The truth is that if people loved the truth, they wouldn't reject the truth. The problem is not that the truth is irrational, but that fallen man is not without his personal biases and foolish pride. As we shall see in this chapter, people are selfish by nature, and their selfishness is the controlling influence in how they feel, think, and behave.

Man is Not Neutral

The Bible describes this as depravity. Depravity is an inner heart condition that prevents us from loving any truth that is in opposition to our internal desire to be independent, free, and self-governing. Because we are born depraved, with a fallen nature, we hate the God of the Bible. We may love a god of our own imagination – a god that we can control. This is because we naturally want to be in control of our own destiny. If we want to go to heaven, then we can work our way there. If we want to go to Hell and hang out with our drinking buddies, then that is what we will do. But to lovingly submit every detail of our lives, thoughts, and beliefs to the absolute, sovereign God is not enticing in the least.

This is because the Bible claims that the entire universe and every individual person within it was made for the glory of God. This design not only determines our intended purpose, but it demands how we should think, feel, and live. In other words, we are not made for ourselves. Yet, we naturally do not want to be confined to such a sacrificial lifestyle, and even less do we want our sin, shame, and guilt to be fully exposed. This is what the Bible does, however. The Bible defines our lives and exposes our sin and guilt. This personal rebuke and criticism is too much to accept by those of us who love ourselves. Those of us who desire to cover up our sins, establish or own purpose, and control our own destinies will reject any truth that endangers these objectives. It is not that we are incapable of understanding the truth; without the grace of God, we simply do not appreciate it.

For this reason it is a false notion to think that our beliefs, opinions, and judgments are determined merely by the facts. When the facts oppose us, we will oppose the facts. Absolute objectivity is an impossibility for sinful and self-loving individuals. Only computers and machines are completely neutral. This is because computers do not care one way or another about the truth. As much as I like my new IMac, it could care less about me. As smart as it may be, it is void of any emotions and feelings. If I do a web search for Adolf Hitler or for Jesus Christ, my computer remains indifferent. It simply does not have a judgment or opinion upon such things.

This is not true, however, with emotional people. People have an opinion on almost everything, especially upon those things that relate and affect their personal lives. Most people could care less about the fact that George Washington was the first President of the United States of America. Most people will accept this historical fact with little to no evidence. “Who cares, for how does that affect my day to day life?” Yet, all of a sudden, when something touches us directly or indirectly, we will show great interest and concern. Bring up religion, politics, gun control, abortion, sexual orientation, George Bush, Obama, and other such heated topics, and all of a sudden people get testy. Yet, if there is one subject that we are all have a heavy and emotional investment in, it would be the grand subject of ‘me, myself, and I.’

Just as we naturally seek to ovoid physical pain and gravitate towards physical pleasure, we all hate to be criticized, rebuked, and shamed and love to be recognized, praised, and honored. This tendency makes it easier to accept that which is personally beneficial and harder to accept that which is personally detrimental. Tell me that I am brilliant and I will not put up an argument, even if there is no supporting evidence. Tell me that I am not the sharpest tool in the woodshed, even when if it is clearly evident, and it will make me mad.

I have sadly seen this first hand. In High School, one of my friends committed suicide. No one saw this coming either, especially the boy’s mother. I knew denial was one of the steps of grieving, but I didn't realize just how strong this emotion could be. At the graveside, the mother of this boy threw herself on top of the casket and began to shake it rapidly while crying out, “Wake upwake upwake up!” Everyone else stood silent. Reality was bitter, and at that time it was too hard for this mother to accept. She, for the time being, would not allow herself to believe that her only child was about to be buried. Though the evidence was overwhelming, it was not enough to convince her of something she did not want to believe. Because she loved her son, she did not love the truth. In this way, none of us are neutral.

Man’s Values are Controlled by His Nature

We cannot help but have something or someone that we love the most – more than anything else. And what we love the most will inadvertently determine what we hate and loathe. If we love darkness, then we will hate the light. If we love pleasure, then we will hate pain. If we love ourselves, then we will hate our enemies. This also cannot be avoided. With this in mind, everything falls into a sliding scale from the object of our greatest affection to the object of our deepest hatred, with everything else in between. This scale is our value system. For our values are nothing more that what we appreciate and love, and this value system determines our morals and ethical behavior.

This is because the object that we love the most becomes our god – what we serve and worship. Whatever we love the most will control our thinking, emotions, and behavior. It will control us, and we will willingly bow down to it. For instance, let's say you loved baseball more than life itself. Your love for baseball would not only shape your opinion about baseball, it would control your life. If baseball was your greatest love, then it would shape how you spent your time and money, it would influence your friendships, and it would shape almost everything else in your life. This does not mean you wouldn't enjoy other things unrelated to baseball, but it does mean that those unrelated things would be subjugated to your principle concern – baseball. Your love for baseball would be the ruling principle behind everything you thought and did. No doubt it would be a willing enslavement, but an enslavement it would be.

Man’s Behavior is Controlled by His Nature

With this in mind, as I have already pointed out, the Bible authoritatively teaches that which is also clearly evident from our own personal observation and inward experience, namely that our chief object of affection is self. Without God’s grace, we make ourselves the center of our thoughts and activities. It is hard to deny that human nature is selfish. Infants are born not thinking about their mothers but themselves. Children do not have to be taught to covet and fight over toys. The history of the world is full of strife, bloodshed, and exploitation. Man may give himself to various pleasures and hobbies (such as baseball), materialism, and the pursuit of power and fame, but all these things are rooted in a love for self. When laws, restraints, oversight, and accountability are removed, ours hearts do not naturally move upward. As dumbbells naturally fall to the ground, we naturally place our own needs and happiness above the needs and happiness of others. Thankfully, not all of us want to be as bad as Hitler, but without the power of God, none of us will love God more than we love ourselves. We may have a desire to be good, but this love of self will always control the motive behind our seemingly good actions. We may have a love for God, but not a love for God that is greater than our love for ourselves. And whatever appears to be good, if done for selfish reasons, falls short of the glory of God and is classified as sinful.
  
Thus, selfishness is the controlling influence behind man’s behavior. In other words, the problem behind sinful behavior and irrational thinking is man’s depraved, selfish heart. As the Scripture claims: Because of “the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:17-18). As a result, the sinful heart is the heart of man’s problem.

Man’s Emotions are Controlled by His Nature

This sinful heart also controls fallen man’s emotions. It is a false but common notion to think that we are not responsible for our emotions. We often speak as if our emotions are alien creatures that attack us from the outside, as if they are outside of our control. ‘I can’t help the way I feel.’ ‘You would feel the same way if this had happened to you.’ ‘I couldn't help that I fell in love with her.’ ‘You can’t help who you love.’ ‘Sorry I don’t love you anymore.’ With such common statements as these, people would have us believe that their emotions are not derived from within themselves but from their external circumstances. ‘How could my emotions not be affected if I learn that something bad had happened to my mother, or if I hear that my rich uncle was about to give me a million dollars?’ ‘Of course, my emotional ups and downs are a result of factors outside of my control.’ ‘I am a victim of my own emotions.’ ‘I am a victim of my circumstances.’ ‘I am just an emotional person. I can’t help it.’

Yet, this false way of thinking eliminates our responsibility to control our emotions. Depression is not like cancer; it is not a disease that attacks us without our permission. We are not innocent victims of our own emotions. Emotions are not alien forces that are caused by our ever-changing circumstances. Rather, we are responsible for our emotions. We are responsible for loving that which is good and hating that which is bad. Jesus Christ made it clear, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we are not only responsible for how we outwardly behave but also for how we inwardly feel.

It is true that our emotions are connected to our circumstances. But, it is not true that our emotions are controlled by our circumstances. Rather, our emotions are controlled by our values (i.e., the things that we love and hate). Because I love my mom, it would deeply sadden me if I learned that something bad had happened to her. How distressed would I feel? It all depends upon the level and degree that I loved my mother. Because I value money, I would naturally rejoice to learn that my rich uncle was going to endow me with a million bucks. It is not that our emotions are controlled by the uncontrolled changes in our environment, but rather it is our pre-established values that control how we emotional respond and feel towards the uncontrolled changes in our circumstances.  In other words, our ever changing circumstances expose our true nature and our personal values.

Man’s Beliefs are Controlled by His Nature

This heart problem, which produces various emotional problems, is the reason why sinners do not believe the truth. It is not that the Bible lacks credibility or is incomprehensible; it is that man values himself more than he values the Word of God. That is, fallen man has a fallen and inverted value system. Rather than God being man’s chief affection, fallen man has placed himself in that spot. Yet, to believe the truth, man must warmly embrace the truth, and this requires submitting to God. Submitting to God is hard because it requires the dethroning of self. But this brings us back to the heart of the problem – man is willingly enslaved to his own selfishness.

Selfishness is blinding. What we do not love, we will not willingly embrace. If we do not have ears to hear it is because we do not want to hear. By nature, unbelievers are enslaved to their own fleshly passions. Because of this, unbelievers love darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). They will naturally resist and suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) because they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12). Thus, the knowledge of God is viewed as a threat to their desire to live for themselves. As R. C. Sproul remarked: “God manifests a threat to man’s moral standards, a threat to his quest for autonomy, and a threat to his desire for concealment.”[1]

Thus, a lack of faith does not come from a lack of rational and credible evidence, it comes from a spiritually dead heart that is enslaved to its own selfish desires. Blaise Pascal understood this when he stated: “Those who do not love the truth take as a pretext that it is disputed, and that a multitude deny it. And so their error arises only from this, that they do not love either truth or charity.”[2]

Beliefs Will Not Change without a Change in Man’s Nature

For this reason, it is not mere logic or evidence that changes hearts. Denial and hatred of God’s Word will cause even the most intellectual and brilliant people to become fools. As the Scriptures say, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22). And the “fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Ps. 53:1).

It is not as if unbelievers need more empirical evidence to convince them of the truth, for even if they saw a man raised from the dead, the Bible says, they would still stubbornly hold on to their sins and reject the truth (Luke 16:31). The only thing that can produce faith in Christ is a heart transplant. Sinners must be born again, they must have the love of God poured into their dead hearts before they will willfully repent of their sins and run to Christ Jesus for forgiveness. Sin must be hated and Christ must be loved before sinners will embrace the gospel. Blaise Pascal understood this as well:
Do not wonder to see simple people believe without reasoning. God imparts to them love of Him and hatred of self. He inclines their hearts to believe. Men will never believe with a saving and real faith, unless God inclines their heart; and they will believe as soon as He inclines it.[3]
Though faith is not blind, illogical, or without empirical evidences, it is supernatural. Faith comes from God because the new nature comes from God. Yet, my dear reader, this does not excuse you from being accountable for rejecting the God of the Bible. Your rejection and denial of the truth is not because you lack evidence, it is because you love yourselves and your sins more than you love the Christ who came to die for your sins.

Notes:

[1] R. C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why are there Atheists? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), 73.
[2] Pensées, 261.
[3] Pensées, 284.