From Mason To Minister: Through the Lattice is an autobiography at heart. It is about one man’s lonely journey in his quest to find the meaning of life. Therefore, in some ways it’s a journal. As I began writing down some of the events that led me to my present place in life I began to see that I had a rather interesting life story. I have lived in Scotland, Canada, and Australia. These places seem exotic to those who have never lived there. I could see that even just with that I could have an interesting book. However, it was when I started adding it all together that I began to see that it was more about the invisible leading of God than the haphazard journeys of a young adventurer. So, God was the inspiration for my book!
The Through the Lattice part of the title has to do with a verse of Scripture: “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, gazing through the lattice” Song of Solomon 2:8-9. Along the way on my journey, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was catching glimpses of God through the lattice as He watched me through the lattice. The Bible says that God is reflected in the things He has made (Psalm 19; Romans 1). In my search for God I was actually catching glimpses of Him at every turn. He was like that elusive highland stag on a Scottish mountain…
When we were growing up people would refer to God as “the man upstairs.” The school I attended as a kid was next door to a church. There were dormer-like windows on its steeple. We thought that God was upstairs watching us through those windows! (A friend of mine actually wrote a poem about this very thing!) At times we were sure that we saw someone looking out the window at us! Anyway, the fertile imagination of my young mind has stayed with me now that I’m much older.
The idea of God looking at us through the lattice was very inspirational to me. I entered into Freemasonry where the Omnipresence of God is spoken of as “the all-seeing eye”, like that depicted on an American one dollar bill. Some people don’t like the idea of God watching them, while others, find it a reassuring comfort. My trouble was that I had begun to wonder who God was. Was he some old guy with a long white beard that lived up in a church steeple? Who is God? That’s what inspired me to write From Mason To Minister: Through the Lattice. I want to tell people about God, about how He can be seen in the things He has made. As strong as an ox, as graceful as a gazelle, as gentle as dove, as wise as an owl, I’m sure you’re getting the picture. All of God’s creation reflects something of God. I found this to be amazing and I wanted to tell others.
In Freemasonry I learned a lot about symbolism, how certain objects and ideas can be used to illustrate other things. At theological college I learned about typology, how certain themes and principles are played out or contained in the Bible. For example, David slaying Goliath is also a picture of Christ tying up the strongman, i.e., Satan. Solomon and his Temple is a picture of Christ and His Kingdom. All the Old Testament sacrifices and the shedding of animals’ blood pointed to THE sacrifice and the shedding of Christ blood to take away our sins. The list of Old Testament types and New Testament anti-types is almost endless. I wanted to share a lot of these in my book.
So, in summary and in conclusion, I was inspired to write my book because I was just bursting to tell others about God in Jesus Christ and how God can be seen in the things He has made. However, my book is peppered with Biblical references because it was in the pages of the Bible (the Masonic Lodge had presented me) that I found the One to which everything in creation and in Scripture points, i.e., Jesus Christ.
(Read the original article at): http://thestorybehindthebook.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/the-story-behind-from-mason-to-minister-through-the-lattice/
Purchase From mason To Minister at: http://www.nordskogpublishing.com/book-through-the-lattice.shtml
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Christianity is not an armchair religion from which we pontificate about the rest of humanity’s poor performance. Rather it is about rolling up your sleeves and loving God and your neighbour as yourself. This is your way of showing thanks to God for forgiving you your own poor performance. However, slavish commandment-keeping is for slaves. Christians are free, having been freed forever from God’s condemnation. The freedom comes with knowing that God knows you fail to measure up to His perfect standard. That is why He sent us a perfect Saviour who kept God’s Commandments as our representative and died to pay the price we owe for our breaking of His Commandments! This is what believers’ believe. This is the good soil into which we, as new shoots, have been planted.
The great Gardener talks to His plants as He feeds and waters them. Christians are to, ‘be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves’ James 1:22. Notice that the Christian is not to make it up as he/she goes along. First he/she is to hear the Word (i.e., understand, heed and apply what the Bible teaches), then he/she is to practice it. The whole Bible teaches us about God’s grace being extended to undeserving sinners, i.e., a humanity that keeps on breaking every one of the Ten Commandments. However, the Bible’s emphasis is on God’s grace! Grace is the sunshine in which Christians grow.
What does God’s grace have to do with growth? The Christian is to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ 2 Peter 3:18. To grow in grace is first to learn what grace is and secondly to practice it. What is grace? Grace is God giving you what you do not deserve while not giving what you do deserve. Without God grace is nigh impossible for human beings to begin to understand. Thus growth for the Christian begins when the meaning of God’s grace begins to sink into the heart and waters the good soil into which God has planted the seed of His Word. This is where the knowledge of Jesus Christ comes in.
Who is Jesus? Jesus Christ is God’s gift. He is God’s grace to fallen humanity. He is the Light of the World that is sitting in darkness. We remain in darkness without Him. We wither and die on the vine without him. We become straw and stubble without Him. If we are to be saved from the great bonfire on the Last Day we need to understand who He is and what He has done for us. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He is the ideal mediator, being God and man in one divine Person forever. Our sin separates us from God. If we are not reconciled with God we remain separated from Him forever in Hell. However, God and mankind have been united, reunited, in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept God’s Commandments perfectly as representative of those He is saving. God poured out His judgment on Him instead of those whom He represents. He represents, i.e., He is the Saviour of all who believe in Him alone for salvation.
New Testament believers are grafted into the same tree as Old Testament believers (Romans 11:16-24). All believers are to grow and to bear fruit. Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.’ John 15:1-2,5-6.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Home Is Heaven
It is certainly true for the Christian that home is where the heart is.: Heaven! Whenever a Christian dies someone is sure to say that they have ‘gone home to be with the Lord.’ Perhaps the most famous ‘going home’ story in the Bible is the ‘Prodigal Son’ parable. After squandering everything he had in a life of debauchery he returned to his father’s house with a penitent heart. Even though he had turned his back on him his father welcomed him home. The picture here is, of course, that all humanity (which includes you) has turned its collective back on God and lives life as it sees fit. However, there are many who hear the Gospel and by the grace of God repent and return to the Father’s house. Jesus says, ‘In My Father’s house there are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go there to prepare a place for you.’ John 14:2. Jesus had Himself slaughtered at a Roman abattoir to prepare a place for each one of His people. He raised Himself from the dead and ascended into Heaven to go and prepare a place for them.
Scripture says that God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and that those who repent and believe in the Gospel will spend eternity with God in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; John 3:16). But where exactly is the house with many mansions? Where is home for the Christian? First, God converts the individual, i.e., causes them to be born again, born spiritually, enabled to see and to enter His kingdom (John 3:3-8). Second, when the Christian dies he or she temporarily departs his or her body and goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:21-24). This temporary period is the ‘
Some mistake this as Heaven for Christians and Hell for God-rejecters,
forgetting about the resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:13). The
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus speaks of the ‘ Intermediate State .’
‘Then he [i.e., the Rich Man] cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on
me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue;
for I am tormented in this flame” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your
lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but
now he is comforted and you are tormented.”’ Luke 16:24-26. Third, the Lord
returns to earth and the graves give up their dead, i.e., all humanity is
resurrected on the Last Day which is Judgment Day (John 6:39; 12:48; Acts
17:31; Revelation 20:11-15). This means that the souls in Heaven and in Hell
regain their bodies (albeit raised with different qualities, 1 Corinthians
15:39-45). The question arises at this point: If there are people in Heaven and
Hell before Judgment Day, then what is Judgment Day? It is the day when God
makes His face shine grace upon believers while His justice pours consuming
fire upon unbelievers (Revelation 21:6-8). Jesus says, ‘Do not marvel at this,
for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and
those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’ John 5:28-29.
Fourth and finally, the house of ‘many mansions’ is on the new earth
(Revelation 20:1). This is the eternal
home of resurrected Christians. This is where the heart is. This is Heaven. Intermediate State
‘But seek first the
and His righteousness and all these
things will be added to you.’ Matthew 6:33. kingdom of God
Friday, February 7, 2014
Resurrection and Justification
[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification. Romans 4:25.
Have you ever wondered what is so special about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It is an amazing thing for someone to be raised from the dead. There is no getting away from that. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle – but Jesus is not the only human being who has ever been raised from the dead. The Lord’s Prophet Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. And that was way back in the days of the Old Testament somewhere. And the Apostle Paul brought that fellow back to life – the one who fell asleep listening to one of his sermons. His name was Eutychus. And not only did he fall asleep, but he nodded off and fell from a third story window to his death. Paul raised him!
And the Apostle Peter raised Dorcas – or Tabitha as she is also called – from the dead. And Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb. He had been dead four days! He also stopped a funeral procession and raised the widow from Nain’s son. Then there was the twelve year-old daughter of Jairus whom Jesus raised from the dead.
I am sure if we looked we could find others in the Bible who have been raised from the dead. What, then, makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special? For He is certainly not the only person ever to have been raised from the dead! That is what we are going to be looking at this following.
We are given a clear statement of what makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special in Romans 4:25. “[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.” Of this verse the Bible Commentator Geoffrey Wilson says,
In this brief sentence of profound import and eloquent simplicity, there is distilled the very sum of saving knowledge.
Now, do you remember that when we had a look at the first half of this verse (above) we saw that our offenses, i.e., sins against God, were imputed to Christ on the cross? And we saw that His righteousness is imputed or accredited to us. The cross was the place where the Great Exchange took place. That, briefly, is what is meant by the words, “[He] was delivered up for our offenses”.
So, in the following we shall look at the second half of Romans 4:25, “[He] was raised for our justification.” First we need to consider His resurrection then we shall have a look at our Justification.
Jesus was raised because of our justification. The New International Version puts it like this, “[Jesus] was raised to life for our justification.” So, there was a reason Jesus was raised from the dead. He was resurrected to justify us in the sight of God. This makes Christ’s resurrection unique, does it not? No one else was raised to justify us. Only Jesus! Therefore, not one of all those other people whom God raised from the dead, whom you read about in the Bible, was raised for our justification. Only Jesus! But let us not miss a very important point: God IS able to raise the dead, even you and me!
Now then, what else is so special about the resurrection of Jesus? Well, it is a really remarkable thing to raise someone else from the dead. But how much more remarkable would it be to raise yourself from the dead? Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19. He was, of course, talking about raising His own body from the dead.
Although it was definitely God the Father who raised Him, He still raised Himself on account of Him being the Middle Person in the Trinity, and as such, The Son may be distinct from the Father and the Spirit but no Person in the Godhead is separate from the Others. As He says in John 10, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”
So again we see the uniqueness of His resurrection. His was a self-raising resurrection. Think about it, we cannot even pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But Jesus could raise Himself from the dead. Remarkable!
But let us not lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is usually ascribed to God the Father in the Scriptures. To be sure, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all three Persons involved in the resurrection of Jesus. However, in Acts 2:24 it says that God raised Him. Acts 2:32 says, “This Jesus God has raised up.” It is the same in Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 34, 37; 17:31. We could go on and on rattling off verse after verse where it says that God raised Him up – 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:15; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12. So, hang on to the fact that God the Father raised Him, for it’s important.
But the point that also needs to be made is that God the Father must have been satisfied with the work of Jesus otherwise He would not have raised Him! So we see then that Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God the Father has accepted the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins – just as Scripture says.
When I first came to
with my young family we used to hear people in shops talking about “dockets.” A “docket” as I discovered was another word
for a “bill of sale” or a “proof of purchase receipt”. Anyway, I was happy to stop talking about
“receipts” and start talking
about “dockets” like everyone else in Australia ! But the point I make is that Christians
believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, which is to say that
“[Jesus] was delivered up for our
offenses, and was raised for our justification.” Therefore Jesus Christ already has purchased our redemption. Australia
Our faith that God has raised Him from the dead is our “proof of purchase.” Therefore, our belief in Christ’s resurrection is our “docket.” If someone asks us how we know we have everlasting life we can say, “I have a docket. Jesus Christ purchased my salvation upon
And His resurrection proves that I have been saved. And my faith, i.e., my
belief that God has actually done this, is my personal proof of that purchase!”
So, the Christian carries this docket in his pocket with him wherever he or she goes, which is to say that the day has dawned and Christ the morning star has risen in our hearts! Therefore, make sure you have the docket in your pocket – and don’t leave home without it!
How do you check to see if you really have faith? Well, as the Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9. Your belief in God’s raising Jesus physically from the dead, then, is your docket. This belief, this faith that God is able to raise the dead, and has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, indicates that you are among the saved. For, as Charles Hodge positively puts it,
The resurrection of Christ…authenticates the whole Gospel. As surely as Christ has risen, so surely shall believers be saved.
So, it goes without saying that if the resurrection of Christ is not real, then neither is your docket! If Christ was not raised, then your docket is useless. And it would mean that Christianity is a hollow religion – empty as an Easter egg! If we do not believe in a literal raising of the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus, then we have no docket! Therefore, your faith in Christ and His resurrection is your docket. It is your proof that Jesus purchased everlasting life for you. It is your proof that all your offenses against God, all your sins have been paid for. So, no docket, no refund – on the Last Day! – That is God’s policy! Therefore the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead is directly related to our justification.
If Jesus is still in a tomb somewhere then we have not been justified, our faith is futile, and we are to be pitied more than any! And if we have not been justified we are dead along with Jesus – if He has not been raised. But God’s Word spells out in the clearest of terms that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And, since Jesus has been raised, we have been justified. Therefore, His resurrection IS our justification.
So let us look at a bit more closely at our justification.
As we already have seen, our faith is our proof that we have been justified. The Apostle Paul, in the passage of Romans we read earlier, demonstrates this. There he shows us the direct link between our faith and Christ’s death and resurrection.
As you know, faith must have an object outside of us. We do not believe in ourselves, for that would be self-centeredness, not faith! The object of our faith, along with Abraham, is God, i.e., the God who is able to raise the dead. The Apostle says of Abraham, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Romans 4:19.
Could you imagine meeting a centenarian and saying to him, “Och! You’re a dead man! You may as well count yourself dead. A hundred years old? You’re already dead!” Well, that is what Paul under inspiration is doing here with regard to Abraham! But how did Abraham feel about the fact that being a hundred he was as good as dead? Well, the LORD had made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. And, included in this promise was Christ and His work of redemption. For as Jesus Himself says in John 8:56, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
So, as good as dead or no, Abraham believed in the LORD! He trusted in Him. He put His faith in Him. As Paul says in Romans 4:21-22, “And [Abraham] being fully convinced that what He had Promised He was able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
The faith Abraham had in God is even more remarkable when Sarah is taken into consideration. She had to be about ninety if Abraham was about a hundred. And just as the hundred-year-old Abraham was reckoned as dead, so was Sarah’s womb! Yet the LORD had told them that she would be the one to bear Abraham his offspring! That is why the Apostle says in Romans 4:17 speaks of God as Him “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”
So we see then, that Abraham believed in the LORD, which is to say that he believed also the promise of the LORD. Abraham’s belief or trust or hope in the LORD was “accounted to him for righteousness”. And then in Romans 4:23ff. we see that these words were not written for Abraham alone, but also for us, which is to say that, “Righteousness shall be imputed [or credited, accounted, reckoned] to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of justification.” Romans 4:24-25. Have you got it? God had given to Abraham (who was as good as dead) a docket. And on that docket was written God’s promise to him of everlasting life.
Now, have you ever been on a train or a bus or whatever when the inspector has come along and has asked to see your ticket? The inspector takes your ticket and validates it. Well, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son to validate the faith of His people, i.e., all true believers. Abraham’s docket, his faith, was validated, ratified, confirmed, i.e., declared to be legally valid when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Jesus Christ personally signed every faith-docket in His blood. That is why Christians talk about having faith in Christ’s blood. It is His shed blood that seals our faith and it is His resurrection that declares it valid. So, in a word, Abraham was justified by faith. The object of His faith was the God who gives life to dead things. Even the as-good-as-dead hundred year-old Abraham! Even his ninety year-old wife Sarah with her dead or barren womb!
One can only imagine how difficult, humanly speaking, it must have been for Abraham to believe. We have the easier task of looking back to something that has already happened. But Abraham had to strain to look forward to something that was only promised by God. The Apostle says in Romans 4:20 that Abraham was “strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” Therefore, even though it all must have looked so impossible to Abraham, it was God (the Holy Spirit) who was working faith in Abraham.
Abraham believed that God was able to raise the dead. The Scriptures testify to this. For the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham ... offered up Isaac … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”
This faith then was “accounted to Abraham for righteousness” by the LORD. This means that God accepted Abraham as righteous on account of his faith, which is not to say that Abraham’s faith was the ground of his justification. But rather that his faith was the condition of his justification. Therefore if we would be justified we too need to exercise faith – a living faith.
And our faith needs to be directed to the God who raises the dead, even Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus for our justification. Therefore we need to believe that Jesus was brought back to life by God in order for us to be justified.
Since faith is the gift of God to all believers it is the instrument, not the cause, of our justification. Christ’s resurrection is the cause of justification. Abraham believed that God could raise the dead as illustrated by his belief that God could give him and Sarah a son in their old age. Abraham’s belief in the resurrection is attested to again by the incident when years later the LORD put him to the test by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham would have complied fully had the LORD not stopped him from plunging the knife into his son. The point is that Abraham trusted God to the point of doing whatever the LORD told him to do, even the sacrifice of his beloved son. It may seem strange to us today but Abraham believed that if he sacrificed Isaac as per the LORD’s instruction, the LORD could bring his son back to life!
Let us now have a look at the meaning of that word “justification”. And as we do so, we need to keep in mind the fact that we are the same as Abraham. Yes, Abraham was a hundred years old, “already dead,” as the Apostle puts it. However, before our justification we too in a sense are “already dead!” For, not to be justified by God is to be accounted dead in your sins.
To not have your offenses against God forgiven is to be already dead, which is to say that you are reckoned as dead by God. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is also our resurrection. For if God never raised Jesus, we would still be dead – dead in our sins. Therefore, as Abraham was already dead, so to speak, so are we until we by God’s grace believe that God can raise the dead!
Can a man actually pull himself up by his bootstraps? Can a dead man pick up the phone and ring a doctor? Well, neither could Abraham – who was, as it were, already dead – believe God could raise the dead, unless God took the initiative and did something.
Do you see what happened with Abraham? He knew he was already dead. When you get to be a hundred you know you are on borrowed time, right? Your next breath could very well be your last. Yet God had made a promise to Abraham and Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. Even though Abraham got to be a hundred, even though his wife was ninety and had never given birth before, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. He kept on believing that the LORD would provide him a son, a Saviour! For make no mistake, Abraham’s family-line would have died unless he produced a son. For the LORD did not recognize Ishmael as Abraham’s son.
So, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD that he would produce a son. And this belief, this faith that the LORD could give life to the dead, was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Therefore Abraham’s righteousness came to him through faith. It did not come by trying to be good. In this we see then where we today fit in, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9.
Do you believe that God is able to give life to the dead? And do you believe that God has given life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified, dead, and buried? Well then, as He did for Abraham, so God credits your faith in Him for righteousness. Therefore, when we look at the words of Romans 4:25b, “[He] was raised for our justification,” we know what is meant.
We know that God is able to raise people from the dead. We know that God raised His Son, Jesus Christ from the dead for our justification. We know that if we truly believe this, God has declared us righteous. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is God’s proof that He has purchased life for me. And, as a docket, as proof of purchase, God has given me faith in Him. Put another way, the question is this, How do I know I’m a Christian? Well, like Thomas, I confess that Jesus is my Lord and my God. And I believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead! Therefore, His resurrection is my justification.
We have seen that God has raised Jesus Christ for our justification. So let me just remind you what it means to be justified. To be justified is to be acquitted by God. It is to receive an acquittal for the guilt of your sins, past, present, and future. God, therefore, pronounced the acquittal of all believers to the whole world when He raised Jesus from the dead. For the Gospel is to go out to all the ends of the earth. And as it spreads, so does the good news of your acquittal.
The whole world is getting to hear about Easter, the day Christ rose from the dead. Therefore, the whole world is getting to hear about your acquittal! For God raised Jesus because of OUR justification – i.e., the justification of those who, like Abraham, believe that God is able to raise the dead and actually did raise Jesus!
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. Our faith is a valid because God raised Jesus from the dead! No resurrection, no justification, and our faith is invalid. However, He is risen!
And if you meet anyone who asks you for proof of Christ’s resurrection you just show them your docket! You tell them in your own words that Jesus is your Lord and your God. Confess Him! Tell them that His Father really did raise Him from the dead. Believe in His resurrection! Tell them that on account of His resurrection, the Triune God has acquitted you of all your sins.
And do not forget to tell them that they too will receive God’s acquittal if only they would confess Jesus as Lord, and keep on believing that God has raised Him from the dead for their justification.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Charles Darwin popularised the interchangeable terms “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection.” These terms describe how biological life adapts or evolves to cope with and exist in various and sometimes hostile environments. A simple example of this might be that a fit and healthy wildebeest has a better opportunity to survive against predatory lions than a wounded or deformed wildebeest. There is no argument forthcoming from the Christian against the idea of “the survival of the fittest” or “natural selection.” However, following Darwin’s lead, the Atheist has taken this idea and has extrapolated from it a fantastic theory!
Charles Darwin speculated that through the process he called “natural selection” that a bear, for example, could become a very different creature such as a whale. The Live Science website gives a basic summary of what is commonly meant by the term “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.” The following words are included in the Live Science website’s description,
Natural selection can change a species in small ways, causing a population to change color or size over the course of several generations. This is called “microevolution.” But natural selection is also capable of much more. Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species. It can turn dinosaurs into birds, apes into humans and amphibious mammals into whales.
Again Christians have no trouble with the “microevolution” idea of the first half of the above quote. This is observable, scientifically observable. However, it is that which is unobservable, scientifically unobservable that the Christian objects to. Contrary to much popular belief it is simply pure and unsubstantiated speculation that “Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species. It can turn dinosaurs into birds, apes into humans and amphibious mammals into whales.” With regards to turning “dinosaurs into birds, apes into humans and amphibious mammals into whales” natural selection is not scientifically demonstrable! It is simply a leap from microevolution to macroevolution, a leap of faith!
It is at this point that an insecure Atheist might start jumping up and down exclaiming that the Theory of Evolution is settled science. The Christian would grant that it is a popular theory among many scientists but not that it is “settled science. One only has to consider the “Punctuated Equilibrium” of the Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould versus the idea of “enough time and enough accumulated changes” as espoused by the Evolutionary Live Science people. Indeed for the reasoning mind there ought to be something unsettling about the idea of “settled science”, especially when it involves the idea of origins of the type found in Darwin’s “Origin of Species”!
The Bible has a lot to say about origins (including the origin of species), especially in its opening chapter. In Genesis 1:1 we read the following majestic words. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I once quoted this verse to an Atheist and then asked if I had understood correctly his opposing view which I said was, “In the beginning there was nothing. And this nothing exploded in the Big Bang!” This summarises the leap of faith the Evolutionist makes from microevolution to macroevolution.
Because something (such as biological life) can adapt (evolve) and become stronger and more survivable does not mean the nothing can adapt (evolve) and become something! This is not science. This is philosophy! (including at the quantum level).
What is wrong with God designing and then creating land, sea, and air creatures which adapted to their particular local environments? Nothing – if you believe in God the Creator as revealed in the Bible. But everything – if you do not believe in the Triune God! Thus, the current debates between Evolutionists and Creationists. Notice that I did not say debates between Science and Evolutionists or Science and Creationists. Rather the debates are between two types of science, Evolutionary Science versus Creation Science.
Both Evolutionary Scientists and Creation Scientists are looking at the same things, i.e., creation and the things contained therein. Therefore, the debates are not about science, per se, but rather which view best interprets scientific data, i.e., Evolutionism or Creationism?
Did the Triune God in the beginning form various kinds of (prototypical) animals, birds and sea creatures which adapted to their local habitats or did something come from nothing, and then did the organic come from the inorganic, the sentient and the animate from the inanimate as per Atheistic Darwinian Evolution?
Darwin wondered about the cruelty he observed (scientifically) in creation and wondered how a good and benevolent god could have created such an environment. A cat toying with a mouse? Cruelty! A wasp laying its eggs in a live caterpillar which eggs hatch and the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside out? Cruelty! Blindness in children caused by bacteria? Cruelty! And so forth.
The Bible tells us, therefore the Christian believes, that the world we live in now is not the same world God created in the beginning. Sin, misery and death entered God’s “good” creation when Adam, the first human being, disobeyed God. Therefore, if Charles Darwin had realised that he was studying a fallen or corrupted creation (which has become a cruel and harsh environment on account of man’s rebellion against the Creator) he may not have drawn such (erroneous) conclusions and rejected his Maker. All he (and everyone else for that matter) had to do was take the opening chapters of Genesis at face value. God created. Man rebelled. All creation suffered. Then he would have seen what was wrong with creation. And if he had read on he would then also have seen what God has done to fix it!
Bottom line: Atheism has a faulty view of creation.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Atheists portrays Christianity as a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” type of a religion. This is attested to by the 2008 Atheist Bus Campaign in England which involved double-decker buses with the following words written on their sides, “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and start enjoying life.” Apparently the idea is that some people might be too worried God might be looking over their shoulders to enjoy life. No one likes to look in their rear-view mirror and seeing a police car tailing them – even when innocent! But is this the God of the Bible?
It should be noted that it is the Atheist version of God that is being portrayed here. Suddenly their “flying spaghetti monster” has flown out of the window here and has been replaced by a version of God slightly more in line with what the Bible teaches. Yes, the God of the Bible claims He will ultimately judge each one of us. For example, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27 (cf. Acts 17:31). However, this does not mean that the Christian does not or cannot enjoy life on account of God. Truth be known, the Atheist Bus Campaign advert is the polar opposite to the teaching of the Bible! It is as Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b.
The Bible-believing Christian has been set free by God from worrying about whether they are good enough for God. How? We have already noted that the Bible has already told us that none of us is good enough (e.g., Romans 3:12; 23), and that we do not get right with God by trying to be good. Hence the “stop worrying” statement on the side of the Atheist bus. To be sure, the Atheist is correct. It would be a very worrying state to be in, not knowing if you have done enough good to please God. Indeed, the notion that we have to earn our place in Heaven is part of our human make-up! However, we have already established that the Bible teaches us that there is something inherently wrong with each of us.
Humanity has been corrupted (1 Corinthians 15:42), and an aspect of this corruption is that we think that God will be pleased with us if we do some “good deeds.” However, Isaiah speaks for fallen humanity when he says, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6. Therefore, the Atheist is correct. We should stop worrying about whether we have done enough “good deeds” because that is not how we get right with God!
The true Christian enjoys life because he/she has been set free from, a) Trying hard all his/her life to ignore God (as does the Atheist!) and b) Trying to be good enough for God. The Bible says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a. No condemnation means no judgment for the Christian. Therefore, the Christian is free to get on with enjoying this life!
Indeed, the Christian enjoys bringing glory to God in all things. “Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all things to the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:31. To be sure, this is not the Atheist’s idea of enjoying life but it is the Christian idea!
God is not Santa Claus. As fallen human beings we do not receive the reward of everlasting life by trying to be nice not naughty! That way of salvation is closed to us. The Bible teaches that God grants everlasting life to those who keep on believing in Jesus Christ and His works.
Bottom line: Atheism, like the rest of fallen humanity, has a faulty view of salvation.
 Westminster Confession of Faith - Chapter VI – Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof
I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
 Westminster Confession of Faith - Chapter VII – Of God's Covenant with Man
I. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.
II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.
III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.
Monday, February 3, 2014
“[Jesus] was delivered because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Romans 4:25.
Many Christians get out of their beds and attend church on a special Friday once a year to celebrate something strange. What could be stranger than celebrating someone’s death? I mean, it might be understandable if people celebrated the death of tyrant. But many Christians attend church on Good Friday to celebrate the death of an innocent Man!
An innocent Man died at the hands of wicked men, and Christians attend church to rejoice? So what does that make Christians? Well, that is what we are going to look at. We need to look at what the death of Jesus Christ means for us. In the following we shall look at Romans 4:25, well, we shall at least look at the first half of that verse, (and then later on we shall consider the second half).
“[Jesus] was delivered because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Commenting on this verse Charles Hodge says,
The two great truths of the Gospel are, that Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins, and that He rose again for our justification.
In the following we shall have a look at the first of these two great Gospel truths. We shall look at how the death of Jesus Christ has affected us.
Already we can see that His death is quite different to other deaths. We mourn the passing of others. Yet we rejoice at the death of Jesus Christ. Why? Well, I would like us to consider two points: First off, His death means that God no longer holds us guilty for our sins. We shall call this point The Guilt Exchange. And secondly, His death means that the way is open for us to receive eternal life. We shall call this point: The Life Exchange.
The Guilt Exchange
“[Jesus Christ] was delivered because of our offenses.” We need to ask the question, Delivered by whom and to whom?
The New International Version offers us a bit of a commentary on this verse where it states, “He was delivered over to death for our sins.” So, we see then that Jesus was handed over to death on account of our sins. If the Grim Reaper actually were death personified, Jesus was placed into his hands. However, it was Jesus Himself who handed Himself over to death, which is to say that He did the Father’s will and sacrificed Himself.
But why was it the Father’s will to offer up His Son as a sacrifice? And why did the Son offer Himself as a sacrifice to the Father? Well, we are told that it was all because of our offenses. God did it so that He could justly forgive us our sins. So, there is an exchange of sorts taking place here. Jesus is ransoming Himself. He is paying the ransom God requires for our sins.
What is the price of that ransom? “For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a. So that is what Jesus was doing. He was making an exchange. At Calvary, He, as they say in the movies, “made the drop!” To make “the drop” is to make an exchange. Usually a briefcase full of money is “dropped” somewhere for the release of a hostage. However, in the case we are investigating, Jesus switched Himself for the hostages. He became the substitute for the hostages.
But we need to be careful here. We need to be careful not to make out that it was the Devil who held us hostage. I mean, there is a sense in which this is true. But Jesus never sacrificed Himself to satisfy the Devil! No, He was delivered because of our sins. But sins against whom? What is it that King David said? “Against You and You only have I sinned.” So, Jesus was delivered over to death because of our sins against God. Therefore, it is God who received the payment for our sins, not the Devil.
God is a just God. Therefore His justice needed to be satisfied. And the death of Jesus Christ is the proof that God is a just God. Jesus Christ was willing to offer up His life as a ransom for us. God was willing to receive it.
But how much was the life of Jesus Christ worth? His was a perfect life. His life was worth a whole universe and more in the eyes of God. What would you give for the life of your son or daughter? Would you give everything you have? Well, we can see that the life of Jesus Christ was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world if need be. His life is of infinite worth on account of who He is, i.e., God and Man in One Person. Thus, He is a Divine Person. Therefore He is the perfect ransom for you and me.
So, the great exchange took place when Christ faced death, i.e., when He died. He went to the cross to make the switch, the Great Exchange. His sinless life for our sinful lives. Our guilt for His innocence. The Apostle Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Did you see the switch? Don’t miss it! God made Christ sin so that we could become right with God in Christ. So the great exchange that took place is this: God made Jesus our sin. And as He did so He made us Christ’s righteousness. As Isaiah says, “And the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Isaiah 53:6b.
So, the place where the Great Exchange took place was at the cross of Calvary. It actually took place upon the cross for all to see. It was done in the open. But it was not until Christ had breathed His last that His end of the bargain was sealed. For remember that the ransom-price owed was His perfect life.
So, the death of Jesus shows us Jesus really did have all our sins upon Him as Scripture says. Otherwise, Jesus could not have possibly died. For, as we have already stated, “The wages of sin is death.” But Jesus had no sin of His own. He was perfectly innocent of all sin. Therefore God would have no business taking the life of His Son.
But we read these words in Isaiah 53:5&10, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him… it pleased the LORD to bruise [or crush] Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin.” So, we might say that it was the guilt of our sin that was laid upon Him by God. Therefore, this was a legal transaction that was taking place upon the cross.
Our guiltiness was exchanged for Christ’s guiltlessness. He received our guilt and we receive His innocence, His righteousness. Do you see what happened on the cross? Jesus became a sin-offering when God placed our guilt upon Jesus’ shoulders. Therefore we have no sin because Jesus has taken all our sins away – past, present, and future sins.
This means that God can justly declare us innocent because of what He did with Jesus. In other words, God accepted the life of Jesus as substitute for your life and my life. Therefore, because Jesus died for our offenses against God we no longer need to die for them. We are no longer guilty sinners because God has removed our guilt in Jesus Christ. And, because we do not need to die for our own sins, the Bible says that we now have everlasting life.
We need to look at this piece of Good News a bit more closely.
The Life Exchange
To say that you will not die because of your sins is the same as saying that you have everlasting life. For death is the reward or punishment for sin, sin’s wages. Everlasting life is the reward for righteousness, (which is the opposite of sin). Sin is the opposite of righteousness and righteousness is the opposite of sin.
Jesus lived a perfect righteous, i.e., non-sinful guiltless life. And He lived that perfect righteous non-sinful guiltless life for all believers. Therefore, not only is the Great Exchange a “guilt exchange”. It is also a “life exchange.” At the cross God placed our sinfulness, our guiltiness, upon Jesus. And He took Jesus’ righteousness, His non-sinfulness, and He placed it upon us.
Now, we need to take careful note that this was all simply a legal transaction at this point. We have to be very clear here. Jesus did not become a sinner on the cross. He did not go through a change of nature and start rebelling against God, and cursing Him as He hung upon the cross. No, Jesus was perfectly obedient to God even to His very last breath. Thus He was without any sin of His own.
Had He failed and sinned at any point then He too, like us, would need a Saviour to save Him from His sins! So, we need to understand that the righteous nature of Jesus did not change. He did not become a sinner. He became sin, i.e., a sin-offering. It is as Isaiah says, God made His soul a sin-offering by laying our sin upon Him.
Now, likewise, as Jesus had no change in nature during the Great Exchange, neither do you or I at the point where we are justified or declared right with God. This is important, as Jesus hung on the cross God was dealing with our sins, because He had imputed, or accredited, or transacted, or accounted our guilt to Him.
It stands to reason that if Christ is your substitute with God, then Christ’s righteousness has been gifted to you because He keeps on representing you before God. Therefore since God imputed our guilt to Jesus, He has imputed Jesus’ righteousness to us. Thus the Holy Spirit is now in a position to apply all the benefits of Christ’s cross to us.
But the great exchange is a legal exchange in that it does not affect the nature of Jesus or our nature. At this point it only affects our standing with God. Jesus, on account of our sins did not become a sinner but rather became a sin-offering.
The Great Exchange is that He receives our wages (which wages is death) so that we can receive His wages (which wages is life). In Christ we share with Him the death we deserve (but He does not deserve), so that He can share the life He deserves (but we don’t deserve) with us. So the cross then is the place where the Great Exchange takes place. It is the place where our death is exchanged for His life, and His death is exchanged for our life.
God cannot look upon sin without condemning it, whereas, conversely, He cannot look upon righteousness without blessing it. That is the nature of a Holy and Righteous God. He curses sin and He blesses righteousness. The Scriptures attest to this. Therefore our sin is cursed in Jesus who, because God has imputed our sin to Him, removes that curse from us by His death. Then He is free to bless us with the everlasting life Jesus deserved on account of His perfect righteousness, i.e., His perfect obedience to God even unto death. Therefore, Jesus received our death and we received His life – everlasting life!
What a turn around! What a switch! This is the Great Exchange! Instead of giving us what our sins deserve God gives us the exact opposite! And instead of giving Jesus what His righteousness deserves God gave Him the exact opposite! It is like the Governor of Texas saying, “Un-strap that murderer from that electric chair and let him go free with an everlasting pardon. Now strap me in to pay the penalty for his crime.”
But, the Governor of Texas does not become a murderer, even though he is dying the death that belonged to the murderer. And neither is the murderer no longer a murderer even though he has now received the life that belonged to the governor. The murderer has simply had his guilt removed and paid for. He has been granted a free pardon. He is free to live his life knowing that he will never be required to pay for his crime. Why? because his guilt has already been paid for.
Now, if you’re thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if that kind of thing happened in the real world!”, then think again. This is exactly the kind of thing that happened in the real world. For Jesus Christ died a real death on a real cross at the hands of a real God! He died for murderers, homosexuals, sodomites, adulterers, drunkards, you name it. He even died for the goody-two-shoes of whom butter would not melt in their mouths! How do we know this? We know because Jesus died for sinners! And Scripture makes it very clear that all of us are sinners. The well-known verse, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But let me just add a few verses from Romans chapter five, “For while we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” etc.
So Christ then died only for sinners, and, is there any true Christian you know, who is not a sinner? You won’t be able to point to any Christian who is not a sinner. To be sure, God no longer sees the Christian as a sinner on account of Christ’s righteousness. However, this is vastly different to saying that you are not, nor ever were, a sinner!
When Adam disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit all mankind became sinners with him. Therefore, all mankind was deserving of death – which is the wages of sin. But God, by His grace has sent us another Adam, a second Man, the last Adam to perfectly obey Him on behalf of sinners. Therefore, those who know themselves to be condemned sinners sitting on death row, also know their need for a Saviour.
Christ is the only Saviour. He is the only one who died for sinners. Therefore Christ is the only one who can give us life – life everlasting. And how is this life, this everlasting life, received? Well, it has been received the same way ever since our forefather Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. It is received through the Great Exchange.
Using Abraham as an example, think about it, Abraham lived at least eighteen hundred years before Jesus. Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” This is what the Apostle Paul is writing about in Romans chapter four. In simple terms Paul is saying that Abraham’s faith is Abraham’s righteousness.
The Great Exchange that took place was that the LORD revealed something to Abraham that was going to take place at a future point, and Abraham believed in the LORD. It is through this “believing” in the LORD that the LORD accounts or accredits or imputes to Abraham righteousness.
Do you see what’s happening? To paraphrase, the LORD is in essence saying, “Abraham, you know that I have revealed that I am sending a Saviour of sinners. Well, believe also this: He will come from your own loins.” Paul informs us in Romans 4:20ff., that Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. Abraham was fully convinced and therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.
So we see then, though Jesus died perhaps close to two thousand years after Abraham, Abraham received everlasting life through faith. And so it is for us today, though we live two thousand years after Jesus died, we too, like Abraham, receive everlasting life through faith. Both Abraham and we look to the Great Exchange that took place on the cross. It was there that God took away our everlasting death and gave us everlasting life instead.
But what good is everlasting life if you don’t know you have it? If you did not know you had everlasting life you’d be walking around in fear of judgment. You would be walking around trying to avoid the whole issue of God and His judgment, would you not? You would be trying to deny the real God by perhaps inventing a replacement, i.e., a God who would not judge sinners. Or you might be trying to convince yourself that you’re not a sinner! You might try any number of ways to escape the judgment of God. But the only escape is through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.
For us, as it is for all Christians, on account of what Christ did on the cross, we can now live life to its fullest! For Jesus says that He came to bring us life, life in abundance! Therefore we can get on with our lives knowing that all our offenses have been paid for.
So, for us, life has truly taken on a new meaning. We can see that there is a merciful and compassionate God at the helm of creation, guiding it forward. We can see that there is justice in this universe, because we can see the justice of God. He will not let sin, any sin big or small, go unpaid for. And we see this most clearly at the cross. For, it was there that God satisfied His justice by pouring out His wrath upon His Son on account of our sin.
And also there we see God expressly manifest His mercy by accounting Jesus’ righteous law-keeping to us. Therefore at the cross our death deserving guilt was removed and was exchanged for everlasting life.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
The cross is the place of the Great Exchange. It was the place where Jesus was delivered up because of our offenses. That is something to celebrate, is it not? We ought to continue to glory in the cross of Christ and in nothing else! For we have everlasting life because of Him!