Spiritually Disabled

August 16, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Traditionally it has come to be known as the doctrine of “total depravity.” Stated simply, it is the idea that, because of the sinful condition into which all human beings are born, our moral default mode is that we are depraved, and lack the ability to love, trust, and worship God of our own volition. However, some theologians, fearing that the words “total” and “depravity” will be interpreted to mean that every human being, unless He is supernaturally changed by God, always does the absolute worst thing he can do in every conceivable situation, would prefer to use different terminology. Because it can often be demonstrated that even the worst sinners could sin more frequently, and in worse ways, than they are presently sinning or have sinned in the past, the term “radical depravity” is offered as a substitute for “total depravity.”

However, this might also require some explaining. We tend to think of the word “radical” as an adjective which refers to something “extreme.” A kid who backflips off his speeding skateboard into the back of moving truck has done something “radical.”

radical skateboard

A political group that wants the government pay for birth control may be called “liberal,” but a group that wants the government to pay for genital mutilation surgery is “radically” liberal. This is not the sense that theologians want to convey when speaking of “radical depravity.” What they are getting at is the sense of the Latin word for “root:” radix. A person who is “radically” depraved is a person who is depraved down to the “root:” the most basic foundational level of his ontology. There is within him, preventing him from making God-honoring moral choices, a core of depravity which skews or perverts his thinking, his emotions, and his very will, toward evil rather than good.

One of the most marvelous things about God’s redeeming grace is that when He enables a person to trust Jesus Christ unto salvation, the Holy Spirit regenerates that person – completely changing his ontology, and giving him a new ability that he did not before possess: the ability to truly love and serve God.

The label “disabled,” when applied to someone who has a physical or mental infirmity, has become controversial and has the potential to offend, so I’m not trying to disparage anyone’s physical condition, but the fact is, apart from the miraculous work of God, our “natural” minds and natures are truly disabled by the consequences of sin.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 8:7

We get frustrated at people who disobey the law of God, including (far more frequently than we like to admit) ourselves. But we have to remember, people operating in their “carnality” – in their “flesh” – do not obey God because they CAN NOT obey God. They are totally disabled. Some physical and mental disabilities can be treated and even cured. However, our spiritual disability can ONLY be overcome by the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2

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Becoming Part of the Family

November 18, 2016 at 9:53 am | Posted in Mark, The Family of Faith | 4 Comments
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You get into an earthly family by being born or by being adopted. You get into God’s family by being born again (regeneration). He also adopts born-again believers into His family (grants them the status of adult children). This is very important to remember, because, as we are trying to do good to those who are outside of our family, the best “good” we can do them is to invite and encourage them to join the family of God.

It is also important to remember, as we minister to our fellow family members in the family of God, that none of us deserve to be in this family. Babies don’t birth themselves, and you can’t adopt yourself into a family. We are only a part of this family by God’s grace – His unmerited favor – His election of us – not our impressive abilities and not our works. We can’t “earn” grace. I’m not proud to be an American because I had nothing to do with where I was born. It would be even more ludicrous for me to be proud to be a Christian, because God is the One Who made me a Christian. I did not make myself one.

This motivates me to do good especially to those who are in the family of faith because they belong to God. If you are my brother in Christ, then you are God’s son, which means God loves you. A good Father protects His children, so I’m placing myself in danger if I fail to treat you the way God wants me to treat you.

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

Mark 9:42

Authority vs. Empathy

October 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Posted in Q&A, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 1 Comment
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Question: People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin. Is that the only place that addresses the topic? What is the context of it? Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality. I don’t think homosexuality should be called sinful because I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone. I understand that for a gay man the thought of being with a woman is disgusting, and that, for him, being with a man feels normal. So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?

Response: You say: “People always use that same Bible verse when saying homosexuality is a sin.” I’m not sure what people you’re referring to who always use the same verse. There tends to be a big difference between real-life face-to-face discussion and internet polemics, but I’m assuming you mean Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. I’m only assuming that because you listed some of the other things that Leviticus elsewhere prohibits, which have to do with clothing and unclean foods and tattoos and beard-grooming and so forth. As I stated before, dietary, grooming, clothing, and things having to do with hygiene and tabernacle worship were specific as to time and place and location. The moral laws – against things like lying and stealing and cheating and adultery and fornication (including homosexual activity) and bestiality and incest and dishonoring your parents and murder – were of a different nature, and are reiterated as being sinful in the New Testament. Romans 1:20-32 are especially graphic and clear on this topic, along with I Corinthians 6:9-10. Anyway, those are some, but not all, of the passages that address the topic – which was one of your questions – so I hope that helps. But I can elaborate more if you’d like.

You say: “Having memorized the 10 Commandments in Catholic school, I know they don’t address homosexuality.” Actually the 7th Commandment (prohibiting adultery) does. The Bible’s definition of adultery would include having sex with anyone outside of your own marriage, and the Bible’s definition of marriage is what people are now calling “traditional marriage.” In other words, people of opposite genders – you know, male husband and female wife (readers are free to hurl epithets such as bigot and Bible-thumper at me for saying that, but that is what the Bible teaches). Your Catholic school teachers – sorry to be critical of them when they’re not here to defend themselves – may have taught the 10 Commandments merely as a list of rules to follow, which is a common mistake, rather than as a mirror in which we can look and see how truly wicked we are, despite our smug feelings about our own goodness, so that we can then humble ourselves before our kind and loving Maker and admit we need His Son. And that is a great segue into another one of your questions!

You say: “So what should a gay person do? And when gay people fall in love and have sex what do you think will happen to them?” That question is begging me to be all “preachy,” which people typically can’t stand, especially when I’m not in their shoes, but, since you asked, I’ll tell what the Bible says about it. A gay person who truly repents and trusts and receives the Savior, is “born again” (John 3:3-7). The Bible describes this in different ways. It means an “ontological” change – a change in the essence of who you are on the inside. You get a new “heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). It makes you a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). You no longer love sin more than God. The sinful stuff you used to love, you begin to hate. You still struggle with desires and sinful tendencies but now God’s Spirit will live in you, and will remind you of the love of Jesus who shed His blood for your soul, and you will want to please Him more than satisfy those desires and tendencies, and they will be replaced by new passions. Some people fake it for money or parental approval or whatever, but Jesus – the only One ever to get up from the dead by His Own power – certainly has the power to transform a kleptomaniac, a heroin addict, a compulsive liar, a prideful jerk, a Satan-worshiper, a womanizing sleazebag, a person who likes to have gay sex, someone who self-righteously thinks he’s a good person – even IRS agents, lawyers, and those awful Westboro fake-Baptists!

One more thing. You say: “I empathize with people who aren’t hurting anyone.” I think by this you mean that your own personal moral compass points to murderers and thieves as being “bad” because their sins hurt others, but that gay people aren’t hurting anyone by having gay sex, so your personal moral compass departs from God’s right around that point? Tell me if I’m wrong, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I hear that line of thinking a lot. It sounds good – except: all sinners – all those who break God’s moral laws – are hurting someone. They are hurting the very God who is causing their hearts to beat, Who gave them life, Who is giving us air and food and water and children and families and friends and jobs and homes and brains that could be used to glorify Him rather than defy Him, and Who proved His love by giving up His Son for the people who hated Him. I know it sounds mean, and I know that few people will want to hear it, but no one has ever been kinder to us than Jesus. If He forbids us some things, even if we don’t fully understand why, and if He promises to change us so that we don’t want those things any more anyway, and if He’s really in charge of eternity – which He demonstrated by rising from the grave – then it is perfectly reasonable and right to do what He says.

Catechism Question 4

April 8, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 4 Comments
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Question 3: Why did God make everything?
Answer: For His Own glory.
Prove it.

Romans 11:36

Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

This question is likely to cause a child to inquire, “Why do bad things happen now?” or “If God made it good, why isn’t it still good?” These are excellent lead-ins to the next question, but this will also be a great opportunity to explain that Jesus has promised to one day make everything new again – to make it the way it was before sin entered the world.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28

Other verses to consider:

[He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

Deuteronomy 32:4

[As for] God, his way [is] perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he [is] a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Psalm 18:30

The LORD [is] righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

Psalm 145:17

God Versus a Mud Puddle

August 1, 2012 at 9:26 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 3 Comments
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In the great prayer of repentance found in Psalm 51, David is very concerned with God purging him from his sins and making him clean on the inside.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Psalm 51:6

David has much to say about washing in this Psalm. We think of washing as an external procedure, but David realizes that God sees what others can not see: the condition of the heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

However, it is also clear that David, once he has been cleansed inwardly, expects that there will naturally be some outward visible signs of this renewed and restored relationship with God.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

Psalm 51:11-15

Sometimes, when I am teaching in church, I apologize for being late, and I explain that the reason I am a little tardy is that, a few minutes ago, when I stepped out of my car, I fell into a mud puddle. As I tried to get up, I slipped again, and wound up rolling around for awhile before I regained my footing and escaped. As I say this, I stand there before the class, looking clean and neat (at least for me). As the students look at me suspiciously, I admit that there are two possibilities: either I have gone insane or I am lying. The point is that an encounter with a mud puddle is going to make a visible difference in my appearance.
But what are we to make of a person who claims to have had a life-changing encounter with the Thrice-Holy God of the Universe, yet remains basically unchanged in behavior and attitude? Who is more powerful: the Lord of Glory or a muddy puddle of water? We need to make sure that the witness of our lips matches the witness of our lives.

Give Good Advice: Inquire of Your Own Heart

July 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Posted in Biblical Advice, Selected Psalms | 10 Comments
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Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)

I’m not saying our hearts can be trusted to tell us what’s right – or even to lead us in the right direction. They surely can’t (Jeremiah 17:9). What I’m saying is: A person who is seeking advice must examine his or her own motives. When you lie in bed late at night, and it’s just you and your thoughts, do not leave God out of the conversation. But do not leave the deepest, most secret caverns of your heart out of it, either.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Don’t go easy on your own heart. Don’t question it lightly. Subject it to an intense, searching cross-examination:

Heart, why are you not satisfied with what God has given us?
Heart, why are you going in the same wrong direction over and over?
Heart, who is really seated on your throne? Is it me or is it our Lord?

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/f3371-heart-in-hands-thumbnail.jpg?w=550

There is a heresy that says Christianity is “all about me.” That’s wrong. Christianity is about Christ and His Gospel. But there is also a heresy that says, “It’s not about me at all.” God so loved the world – people – that He gave His Son (John 3:16). He made your heart – and if you’ve been regenerated He made your new heart (Ezekiel 36:26; II Corinthians 5:17). He made it so that the issues of life flow out of it. Too many of us talk to God with the intellectual surface of our mind, and we too seldom really pour our heart out on the altar to be examined before God.

A.void sin
D.elay taking rash action
V.ow to be sincere with God
I.nquire of your own heart
C.
E.

Porcine Predilection Predates Powerful Prevailing Pardon, Prompting Personal Purity

November 11, 2009 at 9:30 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Salvation | 19 Comments
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I am not one of those people who think that the entire New Testament after the Book of Acts is just one long test to determine whether a person who has called upon the Lord by faith to save him, has in fact really been saved. I believe the vast majority of the writing in the New Testament epistles is directed toward believers so that they can glorify and serve God as they understand more about their salvation, and so that they can get the victory over more and more of their unredeemed flesh as they grow in Christ-likeness by the power of God.

However, it is true that a person who has been truly regenerated by God’s Spirit does in fact have a new “heart:” a new “nature,” a new ontological “self.”

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:5

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

II Corinthians 5:17

Although regenerated Christians will still sin, they should have a new relationship with sin. Before my “new birth” (my spiritual birth into the family of God), I was a slave to sin.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

Romans 6:20

And there was much about sin that I enjoyed. However, when Christ Jesus saved me from the power of sin, He set me free, and, while I did not become sinless, my love for sin was no longer greater than my love for God and His righteousness.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

If you have had some experience which you believe counts as being “born again,” but you still have no hatred for sin, and no real love for God, it is imperative that you examine yourself according the Scriptures.

Charles Spurgeon gave us a helpful illustration. He described a pig which was faced with a gourmet meal on one side, and a rotten pile of filth and garbage on the other side. The pig raced for the garbage, and disregarded the gourmet meal, because that is what pigs do.

https://i2.wp.com/thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/pigs.jpg

The “nature” of a pig is to root and wallow and indulge in filth. Suddenly God miraculously transformed the pig into a man. The man was disgusted to find himself wallowing in, and consuming, filth. He was also extremely embarrassed. He immediately scrambled out of the garbage pile, and started cleaning himself off. The next day, the man (who used to be a pig) was faced with the same two dining alternatives, and he went happily to the gourmet meal, and spurned the garbage. This happened almost every day, but once in while, the man (who had been a pig for a very long time before his transformation) forgot he was now a man, and compulsively immersed himself in the filthy heap of garbage. The difference now, though, was that when this happened, the man began to gag, and to vomit out the garbage, and he remembered he was now a man, and no longer a pig, and he once again felt embarrassed and dirty, and quickly left the garbage pile.

I hope that we see a picture of ourselves in this illustration. The salvation which God grants believers in Christ Jesus not only secures their home in Heaven, but it breaks the power of sin.

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

Ephesians 4:21-22


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