Monthly Archives: March 2009

Unbelief is a moral issue

Here’s something rather interesting I came across while reading Total Church.

How do we employ rational apologetics in our evangelism today? By rational apologetics, I mean intellectually reasoning out defences for the Christian faith, against questions such as:

  • Why is there suffering in the world?
  • Can a loving God send people to Hell?
  • Surely the Bible is a fictional book, especially when it comes to supernatural things like miracles.
  • How reliable is the Bible?

I think many of us fall into two extremes in regard to the use of apologetics in evangelism. One extreme is that we treat apologetics as a sufficient tool to bring people to the point of belief in Jesus. This is based on the premise that most people are ignorant, and that intellectual reasoning can convince a person to place their faith in Jesus. The other extreme is that we dismiss apologetics as a tool in evangelism, either because we think it should be left to the experts or ‘smarter’ Christians, or because we believe that there is no room for intellect in the Christian faith.

The authors offer good insight as to how we ought to employ rational apologetics. Succintly put, the problem of unbelief is not an intellectual issue, but rather a moral issue. As Paul puts it, “men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). There is a place for rational apologetics. Peter exhorts Christians everywhere to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have” (1 Peter 3:15). There is a manner in which we ought to use rational apologetics. “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” This is because the Christian faith is a reasonable faith.

Nevertheless it is faith – it requires us to believe in the invisible God, who reveals Himself as He pleases. And He has fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, who fully revealed Himself on the cross. But the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”; however “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). Rational apologetics can help us establish reason, but faith is a gift of God. It is a gift that comes when God opens our blind eyes and deaf ears, and removes our hostility towards Him, so that we can see and hear and savour the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, don’t expect to convince an unbeliever to come to Christ by mere reasoning alone. It needs more than that. It needs the miracle of new birth. But skillfully wielded, rational apologetics can reveal that unbelief is not a matter of reason. It can expose the rebellious hearts of unbelievers. If unbelievers come face to face with their naked hostility towards God, perhaps God might give them eyes to see it for what it truly is. 

Additional note: The authors go on to suggest that we ought to employ relational apologetics as unbelief is a relational issue. There is merit in their argument, and I wholly agree with Francis Schaeffer’s view that the church is the ultimate apologetic, in that our relationship with one another is the criterion which the world uses to judge the truth of our message. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Nevertheless, we needs words to give proper context to the actions. So let us not make the opposite error of living without thinking  even as we strive to avoid thinking without living.

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Intro: Looking at the cross

How important is the gospel to you? What do you think and feel and do when you hear that God became the God-man Jesus, was tempted as we were, suffered many things, died a horrible death on a cross, yet lived a life of perfect obedience, thus sufficiently paying the full price of our sin – death, was raised three days later as proof that He paid the price in full, ascended into heaven where He sits enthroned above all things, having decisively defeated the power of sin,  and even now calls people into His kingdom by His Spirit, who also comforts, teaches, guides and sanctifies the church?

I perenially struggle with this question. I do not struggle because I do not know what the answer to it ought to be. The answer is that the gospel is of first importance. Jesus ought to be at the center of all that we do – this is what it means to declare Him Lord. The good news that we have a Saviour who died in our place, a Lord who commands our alleigance, a Mediator who reconciles us to the glorious Father, a Friend and Brother who identifies with our sufferings and temptations, a Shepherd who will lead us home, and a Head over the church ought to inform all matters of faith and conduct. Rather, I struggle because I realise how far short I fall of this sort of thinking and feeling and living.

What is the gospel? The way I would phrase it is that we can enter into the fellowship of the Godhood if we entrust ourselves to Jesus. To entrust ourselves to Jesus means to place our lives in His hands. When He died, we died. We were crucified with Him to the world, and the world to us. When He rose again, so did we into the newness of life. He died our death. And our lives are found in Him. We are mysteriously and gloriously united to the Son. We are in the Kingdom of the Son, having entered by the blood He shed on our behalf. The gate to the kingdom is simply, “Repent, and believe the good news!” Our repentance identifies us with the Son in His death on the cross. And our faith identifies us with the Son in His glorious, resurrected life, who is at the right hand of the Father, where there are pleasures forevermore. We enter into the fellowship of the Triune God when we entrust ourselves to Jesus.

This is something that should never grow old. We ought to never tire of it. Yet the world, the flesh and the devil can cool these flames. They will not extinguish them, but they can cool them. Then, when the gospel grows cold and wearisome, we must look afresh at the sinfulness of our sin and the righteousness of Jesus. We must return time and time again to the cross of Christ where our sin and His righteousness are laid bare for all the world to see.

This is what I hope to do over the next 3 weeks in the lead up to Easter. I wish to look at the cross of Christ. It is important that our hearts and minds burn with the flames of the gospel if we are to live holy lives. I hope to stoke these flames up by working through several sections of the Bible.

Attention EP, Kristian Stanfill

This is one sweet album! It’s a rare combination of the two things that matter most – well crafted lyrics and musical hooks that grab you from the outset. The only letdown is that this is the EP. I can’t wait till April to hear the album in its entirety.

Why do you read your Bible?

This is an important question we should ask ourselves regularly.

At one level, I read the Bible because God has won my love and I want to know Him better.

Yet at another level, I read the Bible because it’s what I ought to do as a Christian. It’s a duty issue, or merely a habit.

And on some level, I read the Bible because I want to increase my knowledge of God – not that I’ll know God better, but so that I’ll be the smart go-to guy on theological matters. It really becomes a matter of one’s identity and pride.

If that wasn’t enough, I sometimes read the Bible because I want to be more spiritual than other Christians. It becomes a sort of competition, where you try to score more points than everyone else. If you have more points, then you are more respected.

This even supposes that I get round to reading my Bible. 

It really disgusts me when I look at myself this closely. Why do I really read the Bible? I wished I read it for the very first reason only. I don’t want to read it for selfish reasons. I want to read it for God-glorifying reasons. It’s just so hard to keep our motives pure.

If God judged our motives, we would be left an utter wreck. Thank God that it’s not up to me to earn favour with Him. No, I have an advocate, Jesus Christ, who died for my sins once and for all, who bore the judgment of God and became my righteousness, and reconciled me to a holy and loving God. I am justified and adopted into His family, because of what Jesus has done. Not because of what I have done. Nor because of what I will ever do.

If I can keep my eyes fixed on Jesus long enough, especially on the work He finished at the cross, then I believe I can finally read my Bible for God-glorifying reasons.

Watchman of the soul

The mind is the watchman of the soul. When we are born again, and we find our alleigance lies with Jesus, we are commanded to renew our minds with the truth of God’s Word. There is no other word under heaven that is infallible and inerrant, nor any other word that gives and sustains true spiritual life.  Informed by the life-giving truth of God’s Word, the mind learns to watch out for the enemies of God, that is the world, the flesh and the devil. It guards the soul from being dragged away and enticed by our sinful desires. It exposes these sinful desires as deceitful enemies that wish us no good. It sounds the alarm when it recognises the enemy is nigh. 

But the watchman needs to know who the enemy is. For the enemy is cunning, and disguises itself as a friend. Only the light of the truth of God’s Word can penetrate the dark disguise of our cunning foe. Therefore, the watchman must study. He must learn to recognise the telltale characteristics that give the enemy away. He must be familiar with the lies the enemy uses. More so, he needs to be acquainted with God, that he’ll be able to better distinguish friend from foe. The two stand in stark contrast to the other, and as black is made blacker by the whiteness of white, sin is all the more exposed in the light of holiness.

The watchman must also be ever vigilant. The enemy knows no rest, and is constantly plotting the downfall of the soul. The enemy is a clever strategist, and he watches us constantly, waiting to attack us in our moment of weakness. His malice is unrestrained, and he will not hesitate to unleash his fury on our soul when he sees the opportunity.  Therefore, we need to watch and pray, that we may not fall into temptation. 

And rest assured that should the watchman fail, and he certainly will, the security of our soul is vouched for by the One who bought it with His precious blood. He owns it, and He will not surrender it. Nor can He be forced to surrender it, for He is greater than the enemy – He has defeated the enemy!

New DC*B album

I’m pretty pumped!

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To fight sin, the Christian must opt for flight.

There is a question that should hang over every Christian’s head.  Everyone who professes to be born of God must surely struggle with this issue. 

Why do Christians sin?

This is a question too deep for me to answer satisfactorily within one post, within 15 minutes. Instead, I’ll explain where I’m coming from with this question.

We all have our pet sins. The ones we can’t give up. The ones that seem to cling steadfastly to us more than we cling to Christ. When we are saved, we see how abhorrent our sins are before God, and out of love for Him who laid down His life to save us from this very horror, we resolutely set our hearts on fighting these pet sins. For a season or two, we do not succumb to these sins. But then, just as we think we are gaining mastery over them, they stab us in the back. Before we know it, we have sinned, and our minds and hearts flood with guilt and regret and sorrow. And we ask, why, oh why, am I so weak?

I have a few things I wish to share with those who find themselves in such a pit. 

Every Christian struggles in this fight

John writes in his first epistle, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) Paul himself struggles with this, so much so that he calls it a law: So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. (Romans 7:21)

The question that should linger on the minds of those born of God is this: If I sin, how do I know whether I am truly saved?

Thankfully, the apostles themselves answer this question. John writes: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)  Paul writes: For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:22-23)

The difference between a Christian and an unregenerate sinner is this. The Christian at his worst is aware of the filth that is his sin. He knows that it cost God His only Son, the Son He loved and delighted in from all eternity. He does not make a practice of sinning, because he does not want to crucify the Son of God again and again. He delights in the law of God, and is aware of the fight.

The unregenerate sinner at his best does not see sin as an offense to God. There might be a natural law written on his heart of the goodness and evilness of certain moral acts, such that he refrains from most evil things. But if God is to remove the moral restraints of His common grace, the unregenerate sinner will certainly make a practice of sinning. He has no real delight in the law of God. He has no qualms about crucifying the Son of God. There is no fight. All things are permissible for him.

If you are aware of this fight, if you do not make a practice of sinning, if your delight ultimately rests in the Son of God who love you and gave Himself up for you, then take heart: you are born of God. Otherwise, flee to the cross of Christ. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Every Christian knows how to win the fight

The problem is we forget. We  forget all too quickly. And herein lies that dastardly sin, the sin that prompts us to forget all that Christ has accomplished for us. For sin’s only effective tactic is this: suppress the truth of the crucified Christ and all that His blood has purchased for those who will put their trust in Him. The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil, and they are truly destroyed. They have no power over us if we remember this very truth. But the world, the flesh and the devil will not give up. They will suppress the truth of their defeat. For this is the only way they can assert authority over us, by falsely claiming that there is no conqueror that has defeated them once and for all.

We know how to win the fight. Because once upon a time, we fled to the cross of Christ. In our most lucid moment, we felt the weight of our sin and looked to the sufficiency of the crucified Christ. And there, in that most mysterious exchange that comes by faith alone, a miracle happened. The ungodly are declared just. The filthy are called clean. The guilty are set free. That same power that saved you from the penalty of your past sin, is more than strong enough to save you from the present power of sin. You only need to flee to the cross of Christ yet again.

And flee you must!

The only way to defeat sin is to know this: you can never defeat sin. Not you. For the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil. Not you. The Son on God died that He might destroy the one who holds the power of death. Not you. The Son of God alone was perfectly righteous. Not you. The Son of God alone was without sin. Not you. The Son of God alone is the perfect lamb, without blemish, who can bear your blame. Not you. The Son of God alone can pay the ransom for your sin. Not you. The Son of God alone can raise a dead man to life. Not you.  The Son of God alone can send the Spirit, to lead us in paths of truth. Not you.

Not you, but Christ. This is what it means to flee to the cross of Christ. It is to realise that you are utterly devoid of the resources to fight this battle. It is to increasingly recognise how worthless you are, and how sufficient Christ is.  Some may call this self-degradation, but this is true humility. 

Not you, but Christ in you. Don’t think for a moment you don’t have to lift a finger. Flee you must! That requires us to run as fast and as hard as we can. Flee from the deceitfulness and dangers of sin to the cross of Christ where forgiveness and love and power can be found. To fight sin, the Christian must opt for flight. And may Christ grant us the grace to flee with all our might, that we may fight the good fight.