Feb 11, 2009

Amnesty International: Hamas harmed Palestinians

Article reprtinted from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

February 11, 2009
LONDON (JTA) -- Amnesty International issued a report detailing Hamas violence against Palestinians during Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

In its report, the human rights organization states that at least two dozen men were shot dead by Hamas gunmen, and many more were kneecapped or otherwise tortured during and after Israel’s military operation. It also confirms media reports that some victims had been executed in hospitals where they were being treated for wounds.

Amnesty International sent a fact-finding team to the Gaza Strip once the cease-fire was in force.

Responding to the report, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “Maybe some of them were killed because they were acting against the population, against the resistance."

Barhoum added that certain assassinations, like that of the Hamas interior minister, Said Siyam, could not have been carried out without intelligence provided by spies.

However, human rights organizations documented cases of execution and the torture of supporters of Fatah, the party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In one such incident detailed in the report, Hamas forces took in for questioning Osama Atallah, a teacher and public supporter of Fatah. The following day a local hospital called his family to say he was in critical condition. He later died.

Fatah officials said Atallah was punished "because of his public and continued criticism of the performance of the Hamas militias in Gaza." They accused Hamas of "severely torturing and then strangling" Atallah.

Hamas officially endorses the killing of collaborators, but denies allegations that it executes political rivals.

Feb 3, 2009

An unchanging message for an ever-changing world

The gospel of Christ is all sufficient

by Dr. John Hamby
First Baptist Church
Vilonia, Arkansas

One of the most frequently used phrases in Christian circles is “the gospel”. Amazingly few adults know what this term means. It could either refer to its literal translation, "good news;" or to the perspective that salvation is available only through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ and a person’s acceptance of Christ as their savior. Less than four out of ten adults (37 percent) knew this; 34 percent had other, inaccurate perceptions of the meaning of the term; three out of ten adults did not offer a guess. Even among born again Christians, only 60 percent correctly identified at least one meaning of this expression, (Barna Research Online).
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from
Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not
another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of
Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you
than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before,
so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you
have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I
seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of
Christ.” (Gal. 1:6-10)
In the past thirty years there has been a proliferation of “new gospels” in the United States. Some, such as the “new age” belief system, are rooted in eastern mysticism, such as Hinduism. Others are based more on pop psychology than they are on the gospel. But whatever their origin they are misdirecting men and women away from the only truth that can save you from your sin.

The core of this letter is that the people at Galatia have been turned from the life changing truth of God’s word. Paul says in verse six, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of
Christ, to a different gospel.”

The Greek word used here (thaumazou) is “to be astounded or bewildered.” Paul’s astonishment is not that false teachers exist, but that the church was following them. He had expected false teachers and in fact had warned
the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:28-30) that false teachers would come. What he is so surprised about is that the
church is so easily mislead.

In the four verses that we are going to consider today the apostle gives us four abiding principles concerning the word of God, the gospel.

The gospel needs no additions

Note that these false teachers are not openly denying the gospel message. They only wanted to improve the gospel by adding to it; requirements, new ceremonies and new standards. It is as if they are saying, “We believe
in Jesus Christ – but we have something wonderful to add to what you already believe!” What is at least implied is that the faith that these believers have is not sufficient, something more is needed.

What they viewed as a different gospel was actually a distorted gospel. The word translated “distort” means to transform into something of an opposite character.

He goes on in verse seven to clarify that by saying, “which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The New Living Translation renders these verses this way, “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ”

Paul says that this new gospel or “good news,” is in reality not the gospel or “good news” at all. It is a counterfeit. In verses six and seven, Paul uses two different Greek words, to describes their spiritual defection to another
[heterous – another of a different kind] gospel, which is not another [allos – another of the same kind].

Distorting the gospel is serious business

In verse eight Paul invokes a curse on anyone, himself included, who distorts the gospel, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As
we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Paul is saying that the real problem of another gospel is not only that it is a bad idea, and not only that it lacks power because it is a fake, but that it is dangerous. In our sensitive English translation we lose some of the heat of this verse in the original language. He says in verse eight, “If anyone comes with another gospel let him be damned.” And in verse nine he continues the thought by saying, “And if you believe it you will be damned too!” Well if nothing else I probably just got your attention! This is not a curse word, it is using the word in its proper sense – that is these individuals will be damned, separated from God and eternally punished. Those who distort the gospel message are rejecting the authority of Christ and are therefore cursed (anathema). Paul is not talking about church discipline, his language is far too strong for that. He is invoking God’s final damnation and wrath on people who distort the gospel.

I fear that those who followed David Koresh in a compound in Waco, Texas, to their fiery deaths in 1993; and the followers of Marshall Applewhite’s (Heaven’s Gate Cult) who in 1997 took their own lives in twisted attempt to connect with extra-terrestrial visitors who were hidden in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet, will not find themselves excused because of their sincerity. And those who led them into that error will bear a greater judgment.

One modern distortion of the gospel is preached in order to fit Christianity in a materialistic society. The message of this gospel we call “the gospel of success” or “the prosperity Gospel,” is based on the premise that God wants to bless you therefore you can only expect good things from Him if you follow Him. The problem with this gospel is that it ignores the fact that in Christian life there is sorrow, there is suffering, there is death. The key of the gospel of Jesus is not the avoidance of life events, but the possibility to overcome them.

Only the gospel saves

Back in verse four, Paul reminds the believer that it was Christ “who gave Himself for our sins.” As Christians in America we believe in the freedom of religion. But Christians need to realize that does not make all religions equally true. While we defend the right of each individual in this country to worship as they choose, in so doing we are not defending that all religions are also “the” truth.

The words of Jesus grant this elusive claim only to faith in Him when he said in John 14:6, “I m the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The writer of Acts reiterated that thought when he said in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.”

Only the gospel produces real life change

The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it. Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed infidel, once challenged the Rev. H. P. Hughes to a debate. The
preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the debate were converted.

When we lose the gospel of Grace we lose the only message that has the power to heal. We witness the power of the gospel in the story of the demon possessed man in Luke 8:26-39. The demon possessed man experienced many horrors at the hands of neighbors, family and even friends in their attempts to deliver him from the demons who possessed him. Luke 8:29 states that they had “had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles.” In spite of all their attempts to cure him, he was no better off. Multiple attempts had obviously been made at deliverance but had failed, but one encounter with Jesus brought deliverance and sanity.
When the townspeople investigated what had had happened we are told in verse thirty-five that they, “found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” There were no chains. He was no longer screaming and attempting to hurt himself. He was not sedated, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”

That is what we lose if we lose the gospel, the power to change lives.

In verse ten Paul tells the reader why he is saying these things. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Paul says that he is not trying to be sensational. He is not saying these things, as some preachers do, because he knows it is a good safe topic and he can count on some hearty amens. He is saying them because there is only one truth and the gospel
message that Jesus Christ came and died for man’s sins is the only real truth.

Jan 31, 2009

John Adams on faith and our nation

by Dan Grubbs

On June 21, 1776, John Adams, in discourse with other founding fathers, was a valiant defender of the notion that our faith and our nation are vitally linked. In my opinion, John Adams was the greatest American of all time, more so than the great patriot, George Washington. According to Adams, we cannot have a United States of American in our constitutional form, without the morality that comes from our Christianity. Note his quote from this date:

"Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."

On Oct. 11, 1798, Adams addressed the young army reminding them for which they fight. He tells them they are defending a nation that can only stand if it is comprised of moral and religious people. He reminds the army that our Constitution cannot guide a people who are led by human passions. He said:

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human
passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or
gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes
through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.
It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, to remember that it is not government that will save this nation, but people who are obedient to the only and true living God. The greatest political act we can perform is to witness to a nonbeliever because their eternal soul and our nation depend on it.

Dear ones, it will not be legislation that rights this nation, nor governmental stimulus of any form. It will only be, can only be, by the our strict proclamation of the Gospel and lives lived by the guiding of the Holy Spirit ... lives lived in humility before our almighty Heavenly Father.

I'll leave you all with a longer quote from Adams explaining his rationale for establishing a holiday to celebrate the inextricable link between our nation and our God (emphasis added).

"I have thought proper to recommend, and I hereby recommend accordingly, that
Thursday, the twenty-fifth day of April next, be observed throughout the United
States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer; that the
citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation,
and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private;
that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess
them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy,
through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that
through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a
more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He
would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in
principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that
He would make us deeply sensible that "righteousness exalteth a nation but sin
is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34)"

Oh, for men like Adams today.

Jan 29, 2009

Catholic priest alleges gas chambers weren’t used to kill Jews

by Dan Grubbs

In another one of those moments of disbelief that I often have about things going on in the world, I had to remind myself that I should expect all kinds of things as mankind moves headlong into the fruition of God plans.

Catholic priest, Floriano Abrahamovicz, publicly denies that the Nazis used gas chambers to murder Jews during the Holocaust. In an interview with Italy’s Tribuna di Treviso newspaper, Abrahamowicz indicated the gas chambers were used for disinfecting the inmates of the camps.

JTA, the Jewish global news service, reports that Abrahamowicz is a follower of the late Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who JTA describes as a “traditionalist.”

As ghastly as his remarks were, in the same breath, he indicated that the Holocaust was comparable to ““other genocides” that did not receive the same amount of public recognition. These included the Allied bombing of German cities – and Israel’s actions in Gaza,” JTA reported.

Abrahamovicz goes on to spew his drivel when he said, “And the Israelis can’t tell me that the genocide that they suffered from the Nazis is less serious than that of Gaza because they have killed several thousand people while the Nazis killed 6 million.”

I understand this is a growing sentiment in the Roman church despite Vatican II, which, in part, sought to combat anti-Semitism. This is exacerbated by Pope Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of four traditionalist Catholic bishops, including Abrahamowicz.

According to the JTA report, Abrahamowicz denied he or other followers of Lefebvre were anti-Semitic. However, he described Jew as “God killers.”

And we have many in the evangelical world that want to reach out in ecumenical efforts with members of the Roman church.

Words fail me!

Jan 21, 2009

Stand your ground on Mars Hill

by Dan Grubbs

Too much is misunderstood about two of our most important freedoms as Americans — especially how they relate to each other. They are our freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

I want to reinforce the notion that religious tolerance does not dictate that we must respect other’s beliefs. Writing it that way may disturb many, but the word people hang up on is respect. However, our foundational national values simply mean that I must tolerate other faiths. Somewhere in our politically correct culture we’ve changed the meaning of toleration, which now manifests itself as a censorship of anything that does not show respect for another’s beliefs.

Nowhere does religious toleration mean revere, honor, speak well of, cherish, respect or remain silent about it if I don’t agree with it. Religious tolerance does not mean that I must not hurt someone else’s feelings if I disagree with their viewpoint. If I must remain silent because I disagree, then that is censorship. If I must remain silent because I might even offend, then that is censorship.

The right to offend is necessary

Do I have the right to violate law or inalienable rights in my expression? Of course not. But, as author, Lionel Shriver, succinctly wrote, “Freedom of speech that does not embrace the right to offend is a farce,” (Opinion Journal, Dec. 28, 2004). It’s ironic that Shriver, a London-based writer, clearly understands something that was one of our foundational motivations for revolution against England more than 225 years ago.

What does religious tolerance really mean then? Consider a recent demonstration against a play performed in Birmingham, England. The play, “Behtzi,” was written by a young female Sikh. To some in the Sikh community, the play was offensive. Others supported the work. During a showing, at least 400 Sikhs stormed the theatre, clashed with law enforcement there, destroyed property inside and out of the theatre and injured several police officers in the melee. The play was suspended and later cancelled after death threats were made to the playwright.

Do people have a right to protest and boycott the play? If lawfully done, yes. Does the playwright have a right to express her views of the Sikh community? If lawfully done, yes. Reports indicate that protesters entered the building and destroyed equipment and injured police officers. Is this a lawful expression of viewpoint? I hopefully believe Americans would say it is not. Can we tolerate a play that negatively characterizes the faith of a people? I hope that Americans resoundingly say we must tolerate such freedom of speech. We need to determine
where tolerance was demonstrated and where it was not.

But, if such tolerance dictates that I must not offend, then the right to free speech is significantly diminished. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to dishonor those who died, and are dying, for my right to lawfully express myself about religious thoughts, even if they offend.

Tolerance is not synonymous with respect

I used this simplistic example for obvious reasons. I believe the numerical majority of our nation would agree that the protesters were wrong to resort to violence, vandalism and terrorist threats as a legitimate exercise of free speech; and, that the playwright has a right to express her thoughts even if they offend others. When it comes to our rights as free Americans, there is no hallowed human right that dictates my beliefs must be respected by others. Our national foundations only ask us to tolerate them. We cannot twist the definition of tolerance to fit
temporal changes.

Some might argue that the right of free speech has certain duties to the common good. That sounds very logical at face value. However, in practice, it is a matter of perspective. Shall we look to our own national history? I’m sure that to the British government and monarchy, suppressing Colonial speech against the Kingdom was in the common good.

The fact is, protecting and exercising civil liberties exactly means that we will offend people because we don’t all think alike! Debate and discourse is a healthy thing for a nation with Hellenistic footings that espouses democracy. However, protecting the psyche of an individual or a community does not outweigh the need to protect the right of the citizenry to express itself freely in speech or in practice of faith.

Dialog is critical to the truth

One group of Americans will offend atheists when they discuss a Christian world view. Other Americans will offend Catholics when they claim Christ was a sibling of Lucifer. Is this a bad thing? I submit our Constitution portrays this as a necessary condition for our republic. Why can’t we all just get along? Let me state this as clearly as I can. Discourse, and the polemics that accompany it, is precisely getting along. It is what has and still separates our great nation from others.

I have taken much space here to establish a mind set. This is important to my forthcoming point because I observe a stark irony when our Constitution outlines freedoms of speech and religion and then is conveniently forgotten by some when an evangelical Christian wants to express thoughts and beliefs that might offend. Why has our nation changed the notion of religious tolerance into suppression of legitimate expression?

Denial that this has happened is easily corrected by an honest observation of our society. This is no giant leap. Show up at any break room, community center, street corner or talk show in this country and start proselytizing about Christ’s redemptive work and there will be an outcry of intolerance. Talk about the angel Gabriel teaching Muhammad the words of God and the same outcry turns into a defense of the Muslim to evangelize.

Why do some feel that religious tolerance means we have to respect the true Rastafarian talking about his faith and in the same breath claim that an evangelical Christian is being intolerant when talking about his?

This is as incongruent as thinking can become, and very dangerous ground for a republic whose moods are often determined less by rational individual thought than by the sound byte. The new notion of religious tolerance is figuratively leveling our Mars Hills in order to remove the necessity to defend what we believe as individuals. It takes work to intelligently support an atheist position against a knowledgeable Muslim or evangelical Christian. With today’s definition of religious tolerance, the atheist can claim that the Muslim is offensive and dispose with any discourse.

Those who defend the first amendment and find themselves wanting to restrict the expression of Christian thought in the public forum should recognize their burgeoning hypocrisy. Public and free discourse about Christianity, Islam or Buddhism cannot be restricted because of the desires of any particular audience. It is, again, ironic that a significant population who decry Christian public discourse as intolerant are ready, often eager, to support the public discourse of those who feel Muhammad is a profit of God.

Jan 19, 2009

Don't let public opinion direct your moral compass

by Dan Grubbs

We have lost a significant battle in the debate about the morality of homosexuality because we have allowed homosexuality to be extorted out of the sin of fornication. Due to decades of conditioning, the public discourse has not kept homosexuality congruent with other forms of fornication. To the detriment of Christ’s people, we have accepted, without questioning, the view of homosexuality being independent from the sin of fornication.

If we are ever to make headway in the polemics of this global debate, we must adopt two radical practices. One, never refer to the sin of homosexuality separately. Call the sin what it is — fornication. Two, we must adopt Christ’s approach to depravity. That is, do not tolerate the sin or even that which may encourage the sin.

The Bible tells us to be intolerant

Ephesians 5:11 clearly tells us that we are not to tolerate the sinful behavior of others or in ourselves. It even tells us to go a step farther. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”

There are — incredibly — true Christians who believe we ought not to judge the sin of homosexuality in order to reach and evangelize those who practice this form of fornication. In John 8, Christ certainly pointed out the hypocrisy of those who accused the woman caught in the act of fornication. However, don’t read into His actions that He tolerated her sin. We must not miss how Christ felt about her lifestyle as evidenced by what He said to her once her accusers left. We see in verse 11 that He considered her lifestyle sinful and commanded her, “From now on, sin no more.” He commanded her to change.

Did this woman have a special gene or environment that sent her down the road to fornication? No … nothing more than her old sin nature and allowing herself to ignore what she knew to be right.

Our society in America has degraded to the point that reinforcing morality is considered to be an act of intolerance. Unity, under the desire to evangelize, is a movement that would have Christians put aside our intolerance of fornication.

A lamentable result

What is happening is a movement that will make it illegal, at least civilly, to call fornication a sin and make proclamations against it. The addition of one type of sin to a nondiscrimination clause will inevitably lead to other sinful behavior becoming acceptable.

Why not non-discrimination clauses in support of alcoholics? There’s “research” that may support they have a predisposition to becoming alcoholics. How fair would it be to tell them of their sinful behavior if they simply couldn’t help it? How about heroine users, nymphomaniacs, pedophiles, liars? These sinful behaviors are prone to repeated abuse. We preach against these behaviors, even in the secular society. Why is fornication different? In fact, it is not.

Evangelize, yes; support fornication, no

Do we want to reach out to people involved in a sinful lifestyle? Absolutely! Every single human is in a sinful lifestyle. We would be hypocritical if we did not. It’s why Christ died on the cross. However, toleration of the sin is sin itself. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin,” (James 4:17). A nondiscrimination clause or allowing homosexuality to be viewed as other than sin is sin itself.

What’s to be done? Won’t the problem eventually go away? Apathy leads to destruction. A simple review of history will bear that fact out. We all sin, some sins are dreadfully repeated. But, the scriptures tell us what we can do about it. In Galatians 5:16, it tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

The only way to walk by the Spirit is to have the Spirit of God living in us. The only way to have the Spirit living in us is to repent and be born again. How will those of us living sinful lifestyles hear the truth? Romans 10:14-15 tells us, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!””

It’s not just the pastor’s job

It is all of our responsibility to both send and to preach truth to people living a sinful lifestyle — that is everyone. These two verses from Romans are not specifically talking about a formal pastoral staff in a church. These verses are referring to all of us, regardless if we have a special Spiritual gift for preaching or evangelizing. Remember, because of Christ’s authority, we are all a priesthood of believers.

What if Christians neglect this preaching we’re commanded to do? We will be held accountable. Here’s what God Himself said:

“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.” (Ezek. 33:7-9)

A significant movement is sweeping our country to no longer consider the sin of fornication a moral downfall. Public discourse against fornication, or against sin in general, is at best persecution-ridden. We must not let the popularizing of fornication and the public demonizing of preaching morality sway us from being dogmatic when it comes to what the Bible teaches.

We must first reinstitute the teaching and reinforcing of biblical values and morality in our churches. Only then will we be credible enough to reach out to those outside the church to convince them of their depravity and “From now on, sin no more.” Only then will we, each one of us, be able to effectively tell the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Jan 14, 2009

The Da Vinci Code and the New Gnostics

Editor's note: although the novel is no longer hot popular talk, the debate about gnosticism still occurs and the true cannon defended. This article was reprinted by permission.

by Dr. Alan Branch
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Da Vinci Code has now sold more than four million copies and sales continue to rise. The novel revolves around a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, who is accused of murdering the Louvre's curator. Using clues found in Leonardo Da Vinci paintings, Langdon and his compatriots begin a quest for the "holy grail" while avoiding police. However, in Dan Brown's world the "holy grail" is not a cup, but is the womb of Mary Magdalene that "carried the blood of Christ." One may ask, "How can this be?"

According to The Da Vinci Code, Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene, who bore a child. The "royal line" of Jesus was then secretly perpetuated in France. In the novel, Langdon and friends search for documents, purportedly hidden for centuries by the Knights Templar, which confirm that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

The book can best be described as a bizarre mix of conspiracy theories, historical inaccuracies, goddess worship and neo-Gnosticism.

The Gnostic influence in The Da Vinci Code should be noted very closely. During the last 30 years, a number of academics have argued forcefully that Gnosticism was unfairly rejected by the church.

For example, about 10 years ago, participants in The Jesus Seminar published “The Five Gospels” which argued for the inclusion of the Gnostic work The Gospel of Thomas into the canon of Scripture. More recently, Princeton professor Elaine Pagels has published "Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas."

A tireless advocate for the Gnostic "gospels" and Thomas in particular, Pagels argues that the church affirmed the complete deity and humanity of Christ for pragmatic reasons not grounded in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The Da Vinci Code makes a similar theory available for a wide audience. A character named Teabing claims that until the council of Nicea "Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet" and it was only after Nicea (325 A.D.) that he was recognized as the Son of God.

Prior to 1945, most of what we knew about Gnosticism came from the church fathers who opposed them. However, in that year an ancient Gnostic library was discovered in the Egyptian desert which contained several of the Gnostic "gospels." Known as the Nag Hammadi library, these works have basically confirmed the church fathers' description of Gnosticism. In short, when they told us that Gnostics were heretics, they were telling the truth!

Contrary to Dan Brown, Elaine Pagels and The Jesus Seminar, these "gospels" were not rejected by the church out of secret agenda to consolidate power. The Gnostic gospels were rejected because they are not true. They are forgeries that include just enough real data from the life of Jesus to dupe the uninformed. Essentially, pagan thought "hi-jacked" Christian terminology and attempted to use Jesus as the vehicle to transport their worldview. For example, pantheistic elements are present in Thomas which claims Jesus said, "Split a piece of wood, and I am there."

The assertion that Jesus was viewed as a mere mortal prior to the Council of Nicea is perhaps the most obviously false claim made in The Da Vinci Code. The entire New Testament is a testimony to Christ's deity. All four of the canonical gospels are dated from the first century and all four reference Christ's deity.

Furthermore, the earliest proclamation of the church was Christ's death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). How can a "mere mortal" be resurrected? Paul said Jesus was in very nature God (Philippians 2:5). Hebrews says Jesus Christ is the radiance of God's glory (Hebrews 1:3). James calls him the "Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). The last book written, Revelation, focuses on the Lamb, Jesus, who is the center of worship! One is left to wonder if Dan Brown has seriously studied the New Testament.

The pagan worldview of Dan Brown has corresponding ethical implications. For example, at one point in The Da Vinci Code, Langdon argues that sexual immorality as part of pagan worship is really sacred and holy. In contrast, the Scriptures teach that such gross immorality is a reflection of the radical autonomy at the heart of the fall (Romans 1:18-32).

Gnosticism is back. The overwhelming biblical illiteracy that pervades our society will make more people susceptible to its claims. In contrast to the supposed "secrets" of Gnosticism, we have a Gospel based on what was "seen" and "looked at" and "touched" (1 John 1:1).

Jan 11, 2009

The world has a short-term memory

Fellow blogger, Joel Griffith, over at The Seventh Sola makes a succinct but excellent point about the double standard most of the world holds when it comes to Israel. His latest post there follows:

Brief post today, but it's a whopper.
Look back to the United States in World War II. We were attacked by Japan, and our war policy was "unconditional surrender." (Yes, include Nazi Germany in that, too)
Israel gets attacked with thousands of rockets launched into her. But she is supposed to "show restraint."
Please tell me why "unconditional surrender" is okay for the United States when it is attacked, but not for Israel when she is attacked.
I'd love some reporter to get the cojones to ask the Secretary of State that, or even the President, if the opportunity arises. Somehow, I don't think they'll do it.

Jan 5, 2009

Q&A on the end times - Part 2 of 2

Along with the previous post, here are 10 quick, but critical things to understand about the end times. These are provided by Pastor Chuck Johnson "to identify where one is eschatologically" speaking. Our intent is not to give exhaustive answers, but to provide short, abridged responses to basic eschatological questions. To keep the posts a reasonable length, I published his Q&A in two installments. Here are questions 6-10 plus one bonus question.

Question 6: What is our proper response to the Second Coming?

Answer: Our proper response to the second coming is I Thess. 4, comfort one another; I Peter, be holy; and Matt. 24:42, be on the alert.

Question 7: What brings on the Messianic Kingdom?

Answer: Our Lord's Coming by His sovereign plan brings on the Millenium, not because the church is going to convert the world first, or because the world will become better and better.

Question 8: Is Matthew 24 referring to the future Second Coming of Christ to earth, or A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and therefore the Jewish nation was destroyed by the Romans?

Answer: The Partial Preterist or Preterist view today says Matt. 24 took place in a.d. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. Using the "Normal Method" of interpretation, the phenomena described in Matt. 24 (after the tribulation with the "abomination of desolation" -- the man of sin, "the sun darkened", "the moon will not give its light"), did not occur in a.d. 70. For several other reasons Matt. 24 has not all taken place yet, the coming of Christ is future as it is described in Matt. 24.

Question 9: Is the Tribulation the last seven years of Jewish history, and therefore God primarily working with Israel?

Answer: Comparing Daniel 9 with Matt. 24 and many other N.T. passages such as Rev. 4-19, I conclude that the Tribulation is primarily Jewish, and God is disciplining Israel, and motivating them to repentance (Rom. 11:26 -- all Israel will be saved) to be ready for the Millenium, therefore I believe the seven year tribulation is the promised last seven years of Jewish history.

Question 10: Does Matthew 25 follow Matthew 24 chronologically?

Answer: I think the "Then" of Matt. 25:1 is definitely chronological, and in v. 31 it is clearly immediately following the second coming of Christ described in Matt. 24.

Bonus Question: What are the identifiable characteristics of the "man of sin"/the antichrist and what are proposed characteristics that are false.

Answer: The specific characteristics of the man of sin are found in Daniel 7,8,9; in II Thess. 2; and in Rev. 13ff.

Pastor Johnson earned his Masters of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and is the pastor at Kearney Bible Church in Kearney, Mo.

Q&A on the end times - Part 1 of 2

I recently asked my pastor what would be 10 short, but critical things to understand about the end times. What Pastor Chuck Johnson gave me was 11 questions that, as he puts it, "need to be answered to identify where one is eschatologically" speaking. Our intent is not to give exhaustive answers, but to provide short, abridged responses to basic eschatological questions. To keep the posts a reasonable length, I’m going to publish his Q&A in two installments. Here are questions 1-5.

Question 1: Does God have a plan for Israel?

Answer: This is the question that determines if you are Covenant in your theology or Dispensational, though some people today want to have a gray area. My view is that God's unfulfilled promises to Israel in the Old Testament will not be fulfilled spiritually in the church today, but will be fulfilled literally in Israel in the future. So passages like Romans 9:25-29 do, in fact, reveal God has a future plan for national or ethnic Israel.

Question 2: What is the timing of the church being caught up (the Rapture)?

Answer: Normally Christians who in any sense take passages such as I Thess. 4:13-18 as literal, believe that the Rapture of the Church takes place either before the seven year tribulation or about mid tribulation (Pre-Wrath), or at the end of the tribulation just a few minutes before the second coming of Christ to earth. I believe the Rapture is pre-tribulational for a number of reasons including that the 70th week of Daniel 9, 7 years, is for the completion of Jewish history having nothing to do with the church, and Rev. 4-19 which describes the tribulation period never once mentions the church.

Question 3: What is the "blessed hope", Titus 2:13?

Answer: How can the second coming of Christ be a blessed hope if the church is going to go through the awfulness of the tribulation? It is more logical that the blessed hope is referring to the imminent, any time rapture of the church.

Question 4: Is the Messianic Kingdom figurative or literal?

Answer: The Amillenialist believes the Messianic Kingdom is figurative, and we are in it today where Jesus is ruling from His throne in heaven. I believe it is not figurative, but is literal and is still future because, why would the promises of Messiah's first advent be literally fulfilled, and yet the promises of the second advent and the millennial kingdom be figuratively fulfilled in a spiritual sense. Also in Matt. 23:34-39, it is clear that kingdom that Messiah has been offering Israel is being taken away from that generation, and will be offered again in the future. Matt. 25 also makes it clear it will come after the second coming of Christ.

Question 5: Is the Kingdom offered by Jesus totally future?

Answer: God has always ruled the earth in a Theocratic Kingdom. Yet Jesus was offering a Messianic Kingdom to Israel. That Messianic Kingdom offer as we have said in Matt. 23 was taken away, and would come in the future. So, though God still Sovereignly rules the universe, the Messianic Kingdom aspect of that rule is totally future.

Pastor Johnson earned his Masters of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and is the pastor at Kearney Bible Church in Kearney, Mo.

Jan 4, 2009

Bloomberg and Brown seem to support Israel

by Dan Grubbs

It's good to hear a little sanity coming from other than in Israel about the Gaza fighting. A Bloomberg news piece quotes Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor, during his visit to the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. “New Yorkers know what terrorism is all about,” Bloomberg said. “If we were threatened in New York, we would do everything in our power to protect our citizens.”

Now, if only the Western media would come to their senses.

It is also good to hear that at least Great Britain understands that peace in Gaza cannot happen if rocket attacks continue and arms keep flowing into the area. Prime Minister Gordon Brown did call for a cease fire, but contingent on guarantees to Israel that arms shipments to Gaza will be stopped and rocket attacks on Israeli towns halted.

Now, if only the rest of the world could see past the rhetoric.

Jan 3, 2009

Standing with Israel's right to defend itself

by Dan Grubbs

After reading the transcript of Ambassador Bolton’s interview on “Hannity & Colmes,” and reading Secretary of State Rice’s remarks about Israel, I have finally succumbed to the harsh realization that our two nations are effectively alone on one side of the geo-political world stage. Yes, we have friends in Great Britain, Poland and Canada, but they really are inconsequential in the matters of the Middle East.

I’ve never really subscribed to notion there is overwhelming lingering anti-Semitism in Europe. So, the change in the sentiment of Europeans is based on something else. I’m of the opinion that change is fueled by something identifiable.

As the volume of Muslim immigration into Western Europe continues to grow, the incoming ideology becomes a solute in the old solvent of Europe that gives us a new social solution that is the new European soup. I believe France’s Sarkozy does not have the fortitude to do the right thing due to the swelling Muslim population in his country. Instead, it motivates him to little more than a public relations stunt by visiting the region in the name of peace.

There is no social or political will in Europe or Asia to stand with a free Israel that simply demands its right to exist without threat of attack.

Where is the outrage that missiles are landing on Israeli soil, killing Israeli citizens? Where is the international pressure to stop missiles from terrorizing hundreds of square miles populated by human beings? I don’t hear Europe’s outcry against these attacks when they kill. I don’t see news broadcasts focusing on the dead Israelis and the mourning families and the destruction caused by Hamas missiles. Yet, I do see protests all around the world when, in its own defense, Israel launches reprisals. I see news broadcasts telling biased stories and showing scenes specifically designed to raise ire against Israel’s fighting to remove the threat against it in Gaza.

Blogger Joel Griffith in the blog The Seven Sola discusses how Europe carps against Israel for strongly defending itself and frustratingly writes, “In my more irritated moments, I sometimes wish someone would lob a few mortars into a Western European city, and see who calls for being “proportionate” then.

No, Griffith is not literally wishing for mortar fire, but uses the expression to illustrate the hypocritical nature of the vocal opposition to Israel defending itself from attack. I agree with Ambassador Bolton who denies there is such a thing as a disproportionate reaction and attributes that idea to the rhetoric of academia and the impotent whimsy that is the United Nations.

Imagine that someone is shooting a rifle at your child and fires twice. Also imagine that you have a rifle with a magazine of six rounds loaded in it and you have the sniper across the room from you. Does the number of times the sniper fired at your child matter to you? No, you’ll use all the force you have to stop the sniper up to and including firing all six rounds of the rifle in your hands to protect your child. The notion of proportionate reaction is ludicrous. Israel has the right and is warranted to launch retaliatory attacks and to initiate military action to remove any threat to its people and its stability.

The United States and other free nations should make it clear that Israel is justified in its actions. The diplomatic cry to Israel for cease fire is misdirected. I guarantee you that if there would have been no missiles being fired into Israel, there would be no retaliation. The UN and France should be applying pressure on Hamas to end their attacks, not applying pressure on Israel.

I have no idea where President-elect Obama’s administration will stand (actions, not rhetoric) on Israel’s right to eliminate the threat of violence to its people. I hope that he makes an international statement by standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, strongly rebuke both Hamas and Hezbollah, and support all actions to stop Iran from gaining nuclear arms.

But, my loss of hope for international solidarity with Israel cautions me not expect the new administration to rally the world together to support our friends along the Jordan.

Jan 2, 2009

Ambassador Bolton on Israel

by Dan Grubbs

I'm not one for getting over hyped about a politician or, in this case, a diplomat. However, John Bolton was recently interviewed on the Fox News program, Hannity and Colmes, about the violence between Israel and Hamas. Bolton speaks the truth and doesn't allow rhetoric to cloud the issue. Although this will be a long post, I encourage you to read the entire interview. Believers should be very aware of how events transpire in and around Israel.
Here is the interview transcript courtesy of FOX News.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: And for more on the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip, we are now joined by former ambassador to the U.N. and FOX News Contributor John Bolton. Ambassador, thanks so much for coming on. What should happen now? What should happen next?

JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think this depends on what the government of Israel wants to do. I must say, I have flashbacks to the summer of 2006. The Israeli rhetoric is pretty intense. Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying this is going to be a fight to the death with Hamas. Much as government leaders in 2006 said they were going to eliminate Hezbollah. It's a risky proposition for Israel not to carry through on that because Hezbollah in the view of many emerged as the victim in that war simply by surviving, and Hamas might well do the same thing here.

COLMES: We have 6,500 reservists called up. We have 180 security forces dead, 51 civilians, 330 in three days, including seven children under 15. Is Israel overreacting?
BOLTON: No, I don't think so. I think Israel has a perfectly legitimate right of self-defense. Hamas has been firing rockets from the Gaza Strip for years, even during a so called cease-fire that lasted six months until Hamas itself said they weren't going to carry it on. And when you have a right of self-defense, it's not simply a tit-for-tat right of self-defense, it's a right to eliminate the threat. If that's what Israel is in fact choosing to do, I think they're perfectly legitimate in so doing.

COLMES: When they say they want to fight until the end as you've quoted Ehud Barak as saying, when he says this is just the beginning, it's going to get a lot worse, and they vow to eliminate Hamas, is that a realistic goal?

BOLTON: Well, I think it's going to be a very difficult goal, but having set that as the bar, Israel is going to be judged by whether they achieve it or not. That's why you have to fit the rhetoric to the action. It would have been one thing for Israel to say this is going to be a retaliatory raid and it's going to be limited and defined, and then do that, that's one thing. But when you say you're going to eliminate Hamas, I think you're prepared to do it, or if you're not, you have to accept the consequences of that too.

COLMES: If you overreact, and you say you don't think Israel is, but if it's a disproportionate reaction, Turkey's prime minister says it's a crime against humanity. Sarkozy of France condemned the provocations, but he also said Israel is using a disproportionate use of force. Can you create a bigger problem if the response is disproportionate?

BOLTON: Well, I think this is the customary rhetoric that occurs every time Israel acts in self-defense. Look, the fact is it's not disproportionate use of force to eliminate the threat itself. You're not required only to fire as many rockets into Gaza as Hamas fired into Israel. That's what Israel says it's trying to do, but, as I say, the real judgment will be whether they're effective or not or whether they're seen as reaching farther than they're able to go.

COLMES: What should be the role of the United States? President Bush is on vacation staying in Crawford, he's had his spokespeople out front. He's not personally said anything. Should he be more involved? The impression is he's just leaving it all out for the next administration? Should he be more proactive at this point?

BOLTON: No, I don't think so. In fact, I think the administration made a mistake over the weekend at the United Nations in agreeing to a statement by the Security Council president that called for a cease fire. That can only mean stopping the Israeli military action. That's really what's at issue here, so I think the administration has already given away a lot of important ground.

COLMES: The president in Annapolis last year, about 13 months ago vowed that he would be fully involved, proactive, fully involved in a peace process. This seems not to be the case especially now that he's kind of laying back, seems not engaged here.

BOLTON: Well personally, I thought the launching of the Annapolis process was a mistake when it was started. There was no chance there was going to be real negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians don't have anybody that can really speak for them. The Palestinian Authority has broken probably into two irreconcilable pieces, so I think the Annapolis process was a mistake from the outset.

RICH LOWRY, GUEST HOST: Hey Ambassador, it's Rich Lowry. Thanks so much for being with us.
Let's go back to this idea of a disproportionate Israeli response because it's a key part of the world reaction to this. Can you elaborate on this a little bit? Because I think there are a couple of key points. One, there's zero moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is a terror group with a maximless goal of exterminating Israel. And as you pointed out in one of your responses to Alan, a strictly proportionate response would mean Israel randomly firing rockets into Israel. That would be absurd — sorry, into Gaza. That would be absurd and immoral in itself.

BOLTON: Yes, well this whole idea of proportionate force is just something that's been dreamed up in U.N. and academic circles. Let me give you another example. Was the United States limited after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to a proportionate response? We sink as many aircraft carriers and battleships as they sank, and we have to stop our use of force at that point? Of course not. We were entitled as a legitimate exercise of the right of self-defense to eliminate the threat, and that's what we did.

LOWRY: And Ambassador, why is it that Israel seems to be the only country in the world that evokes this kind of condemnation when it simply defends itself?

BOLTON: Well I think it's not only Israel, and this to me is one of the really important parts about this debate about the right of self- defense and this argument about the proportionate use of force. Because while the focus is certainly on Israel, Israel in a sense is a surrogate for the United States.

God forbid another attack comes against us, and we have a president who decided to respond to it, we will be criticized for the disproportionate use of force. We weren't criticized for overthrowing the Taliban, although, that was certainly a much larger operation than even the September attacks, but we were criticized for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

The notion of proportionate force is something that can easily be turned against the United States. So the way this debate turns out over Israel has implications that go well beyond this current clash in Gaza.

LOWRY: That's an excellent point. And Barack Obama over the summer, he visited southern Israel, and his reaction to these rocket attacks was to say if people are rocketing my house, I would do absolutely everything I could to stop them, and I wouldn't blame Israel for doing the same. That seems a pretty good gut reaction, don't you think?

BOLTON: Well, that was one gut reaction. He's had other gut reactions during the campaign. I mean, I think, we don't really have a clue what an Obama presidency is going to do, and that could be a factor in the Israeli calculation of when and whether to launch these operations in Gaza right now before he takes office.

LOWRY: All right, Mr. Ambassador, stay right there. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LOWRY: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Rich Lowry in for Sean Hannity tonight. We continue now with John Bolton. Mr. Ambassador, tell us a little bit about the relationship between Iran and Hamas and what Iran's long-term strategy is in this conflict?

BOLTON: Well, Iran is one of Hamas' main funders, and it's been a supplier of arms and equipment and training over the years. And this is important because Hamas is basically a Sunni Arab group, and Iran obviously is Shia and Persian.

This is a demonstration of the reach, the scope, the power that Iran has in the Arab world, and why we're looking at potentially a multi-front war here, not just in the Gaza Strip, but potentially by Hezbollah, the terrorist group in Lebanon attacking Israel from the north as it did in the summer of 2006. And indeed, the continuing Iranian quest for nuclear power. So while our focus obviously is on Gaza right now, this could turn out to be a much larger conflict.

LOWRY: Now Mr. Ambassador, in your view, how does the equation change if and when Iran acquires a nuclear weapon? If the region's inflamed now and in conflict now, how is it different when Iran acquires that extra bargaining power if you will?

BOLTON: Well, I think it gets much worse. Their ability to threaten and intimidate Israel and the Arab states in the region, obviously substantially increase. Every problem in the region that we have now gets worse once Iran gets nuclear weapons, and I am afraid we are ever closer to that point.

I think sad to say the Bush administration's efforts following the lead of the European Union have entirely failed, and I don't think there's anything at this point standing between Iran and nuclear weapons other than the possibility of the use of military force, possibly by the United States, possibly by Israel.

I don't see the Bush administration doing it, so it could well come down to Israel, and that's why the role of Iran here in citing this Hamas violence could be important because I think we are playing on a larger chess board.

LOWRY: In your estimation, does Israel have the capability to take out Iran's nuclear program in a way that would be enduring enough to make it worth the price and the risk?

BOLTON: Well, I think it's a very, very difficult question. The use of military force against the Iranian nuclear program is a very unattractive option. It's risky, it's going to provoke a reaction. The reason it's on the table is because the alternative of Iran with nuclear weapons is much worse.

I think Israel could destroy enough of Iran's program to give us three, four years, which puts time back on our side to look for a longer term solution. But it's a very, very unhappy situation to be faced with.

LOWRY: What does all of this tell us about the power of negotiation in the Middle East, Mr. Ambassador? Because as you pointed out, President Bush kicked off the Annapolis process, we're now on the verge of another war anyway. Bill Clinton twisted Israel's arm and got it to agree to withdraw from a lot of the territories. Yasser Arafat launched the intifada anyway. It doesn't seem as though it gets you very much when you're dealing with such an applicable foe.

BOLTON: Well, here's the thing for people who think negotiation is the solution to everything. Sometimes nations or groups have irreconcilable objectives, and I think in many cases, that's what we see here. In terms of negotiation with Iran, for example, our friends in Europe have been negotiating for over five years to try and dissuade from giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and they have failed. That's why we are in the desperate position we're in. As far as Hamas goes, I don't know how Israel negotiates with a terrorist group? How do you get them to live up to their commitments even if they're willing to make them? They had a so called cease-fire with Israel for six months that they routinely ignored.

COLMES: Are they going to solve it militarily?

BOLTON: Well, I'm not sure that they can solve it militarily at their current rate of speed. I don't know what Israel's real objective here in the Gaza Strip here. I think that this is a circumstance where the pursuit of the so called two-state solution has come to the end of the road. I think the one thing we need here is for countries like Egypt to take up their responsibility and perhaps reassume sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and try and bring some order there.

COLMES: You said you don't flow what President Obama will do. If it were up to you, would you go out and take out Iran's nuclear facilities right now?

BOLTON: I would use military force against Iran's nuclear program, yes, because I think that the world gets a lot more dangerous once Iran has nuclear weapons, and not simply because of what Iran might do with them, but because of the very nature of proliferation. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, other countries in the region and the wider world will judge they need them as well.

COLMES: You would strike Iran right now?

BOLTON: I would have done it before this. I think we're in a very dangerous position. I think at this point, as I say, there's nothing that stands between Iran and nuclear weapons, and if they get them, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, possibly Turkey, others in the region will get them, and the risk of somebody using nuclear weapons will rise dramatically.

COLMES: Is there a risk — if we were to do what John Bolton, Ambassador Bolton is saying what he who do, is there a risk in pushback in that by going after Iran, we introduce an even broader powder keg in the Middle East?

BOLTON: Well, I think you've got a much worse situation with Iran with nuclear weapons. I'll say it again. I think the use of military force against Iran's program is very unattractive. But compared to Iran with nuclear capability, I think you have to look at it.

COLMES: So if we do that, they strike back, are we then in danger of creating a broader war?

BOLTON: I think in many Arab states in the region, although they wouldn't say it publicly, they'd be doing the equivalent of popping champagne corks because the Arab states don't want Iran with nuclear weapons any more than Israel does. What Iran could do is what's already happening in the Gaza Strip or what might happen if they unleashed Hezbollah, terrorist attacks on Israel. That's why the calculus for Israel's leaders at this point is so difficult and so complex and so risky, but whatever their circumstance is now, they are far worse with Iran with nuclear weapons.

COLMES: All right, Ambassador, we thank you for coming on tonight, we thank you for your time.

Jan 1, 2009

'Make your life go here'

by Dan Grubbs

The quote in the headline is from one of my favorite movies: Jeremiah Johnson. The quote refers to the mother of one of the characters who told him that he should make his life in the towns, not in the mountains. The problem was, that was her desire, not his. She did not understand the idea of being a mountain man so her inclination was against it. This same thing can happen in families and groups of friends when it comes to living committedly to Christ.

Let me explain with an example. Not long ago, I was talking to the parent of a student leader in a college ministry. The parent complained the student was spending all their time at church in ministry and fellowship activities. As a young adult, this person was making their life exist with Christ’s people. I couldn’t understand how this parent, who obviously loved the young person, was trying to limit the student’s godly life. Wouldn’t serving in the body of Christ be the place the parent would want their child to be?

The fact is this is a microcosm for many in the body today. Church is just that thing you do on certain days of the week, but we also have our golf buddies, our work friends, and even our tailgate parties. You may think I’m being legalistic; however, I think it’s a dangerous condition for Christians to live with one foot in the church and one foot in the world.

Many claim that they are trying to be a good influence by living their lives with those of the world. For most people I know that say this, I question their veracity. If you’re riding the horse of truth and you want your friend to join you on that ride, you don’t get down off the horse to join your friend where you may stray away. You reach out and pull your friend up on the back of the horse of truth and bring your friend into your world.

To further emphasize this point in scripture, the Apostle Peter tells us that we are aliens and strangers among the world, and even among those who are saved but are not living godly lives. Yes, Christ was in the company of prostitutes and other hated people in that society. But, they were repentant and followed Him as new creatures. He preached to all the people, but He made his friendships with those who followed Him.

We need to reach out and proclaim the truth to our unsaved or backslidden friends. We need to draw them into our world, not join them in theirs. There is a reason the Holy Spirit sanctifies us from those who are perishing. We are to separate ourselves from the world, while simultaneously reaching out to the world.

I consider myself a patriotic person. I’ve lived in two other countries besides the U.S.; therefore, I’ve seen how others in the world live. I remember in my younger days saying that I wouldn’t ever give up my U.S. citizenship to go live somewhere else. It identified who I was. But, as I began to understand what Peter wrote in his first letter, I learned to recognize I was no longer a U.S. citizen, I was a follower of Christ. My nationality, or family heritage or even my race was meaningless if I truly followed Jesus’ teachings. I had a new purpose as can be seen in I Peter 2:9-12

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they
slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Notice the English translation “among” in the verse. This is from the Greek preposition that indicates a fixed position, a location. We would commonly use the word “in” where this Greek word may appear. This is significantly different from the Greek word relating to being a part of something that we would normally translate as “of”. It’s vital to notice the distinction.

Yes, we have jobs, we go to school, we have responsibilities in this world. But as Christians, we must remember we are called out from the world no longer to be of it.

I often hear people referring to a similar concept. They say something like this: “Christians can’t compartmentalize their life.” This is true if it means we should not have a church life, a work life, a home life, a play life, a volunteer life, a neighbor life, etc. As Christians, we only have one life and that is lived through Christ Jesus as we go about the things we do while in this world. Our identity is Christ. We no longer are German or African-American or an Iowan — we are Christians. We now are aliens in the world and not members of the world.

That’s easy to say. However, it’s not always easy to actually live out. Sometimes this means we have to sever relationships with friends and loved ones. Can we still have non-Christian friends? Certainly. However, as new creatures in Christ, our relationships with others should be filtered by our relationship with the Lord. We no longer do the things of the world with our friends and loved ones. However, we should never abandon trying to bring our friends and loved ones into our new world.
The simple fact is that we should make our lives go where Christ is. Almost always this will be with His people and what He is leading them to do.