Thursday, July 29, 2021

Jesus Made the Cross a Symbol and Paul Took It Further

The word "cross" is found in the New Testament 28 times.  The mere expression "cross" doesn't mean anything without some explanation.  Jesus started us off by using it in Matthew 10:28:

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Obviously Jesus had not died on the cross yet, so He was prophesying His own death.  He knew He was going to die on the cross.  He was already making a symbol of Christianity before He died on it.

After Jesus died on a literal, physical cross, crafted by the Romans for execution, the Apostle Paul took up the symbolism and took it further than Jesus did.  Paul does that in these references.  I copy them here for your reading and consideration.

*1 Corinthians 1:17-18:  17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

*Galatians 5:11: And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

*Galatians 6:12-14: 12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

*Ephesians 2:16: And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

*Philippians 3:18: (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Colossians 1:20:  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Colossians 2:14: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

I don't think Paul is using "cross" as a symbol in every one of these instances.  I think he is in all the references before which I placed an asterisk.  Maybe he is in the other references.  In those, I believe, he is referring to Christ's literal death on the cross.  There is some symbolism, because cross itself became shorthand for Jesus' real sacrificial, substitutionary death.

Someone could go further with Paul's symbolism if he also listed the times Paul uses the term, "crucified."  He uses that word 7 more times in the way I have been describing.  Based on the cross, crucified becomes an important theological word.  Here are those verses as used by Paul.

Romans 6:6: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

1 Corinthians 1:23: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

1 Corinthians 2:2:  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Galatians 2:20:  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 3:1:  O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Galatians 5:24:  And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 6:14:  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

In every case, the words cross and crucified are used as symbols of sacrifice.  First, Christ was sacrificed for us.  Salvation is not by works, not by human effort, but by the finished work of Christ on the cross.  The cross represents the finished work of Christ, the penalty of sin paid.  That's why the cross is prominent in Galatians.  The cross works saves us, not circumcision or any other human work.

Second, the believer is sacrificed for Christ.  When someone comes to the cross for salvation, he comes to the sacrifice of Christ, but he comes with a sacrifice of himself.  He is crucified with Christ.  He is crucified to his life, his affections and lusts, and the world.  This is his denying his self and taking up his cross, like Jesus said.

Some people say there are two crosses.  That's false.  There is one cross.  There, because of what Christ did, by faith we can do what we do, that is, lose our life for His sake.  This doesn't occur at some later date.  This occurs when we are saved or justified by faith.

The cross is the symbol of Christianity and it represents those two sacrifices.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Feeding of the Five Thousand: How Old Were the Bread and the Fish the People Ate, That Jesus Gave Them?

When I go to the grocery store and I select my items, I don't very often think of the process.  I just push the cart and put into it what's on my list.  My wife was gone for quite awhile recently, so I grocery shopped.  A few times I picked up one or two of those tubes of hamburger you've maybe seen.  It didn't occur to me when I did that a calf was born, it grazed in a field, grew to full grown size, was herded into a truck, shipped to a meat plant, driven into a building and was butchered, then parts of that full grown cow were ground into beef, which was squeezed into a tube and through various machinations of the supply chain, arrived in my store in Southern Oregon.

I didn't look at that tube of hamburger and assume that it just sprung up there in the meat department of Walmart with the appearance of age.  I know it didn't.  However, something different happened when the Lord Jesus Christ served the five thousand bread and fish in Matthew 14:13-21.  I now know that just one cell of a fish exists according to a very complicated code of DNA, information from powerful and intelligent design antecedent to its emergence, let alone the origin of the matter from which it formed.  Further along, there's the fish eye, it's gills, brain, internal organs, scales, and fins.  It's musculature, that allowed for its under water propulsion, becomes the fleshly substance of a meal, also the subject of future digestion and incorporation into a human body.

Everything everyone ate at the feeding of the five thousand had the appearance of age.  That was the miracle of it.  Sure, it would have been a great miracle if everyone was able to stand or sit there that day and wait for a seed of wheat or corn to grow into the grain necessary to mill to flour, work into dough, and baked to yummy goodness.  How long would that take?  Perhaps the moment of the feeding was actually an age, once we've decided that we're permitted to conform measurements of time to our preferred version of a scriptural narrative.  We all know that a loaf of bread couldn't have appeared in a moment according to known dating systems, so to help with the believability of Matthew 14:13-21, we allow for our own adaptation and maneuverability of the story.

No.  Jesus created bread and fish, skipping the time and the process.  He went straight from point A to B or A to Z, depending on how many steps you want to imagine were skipped.  That's the wonder of His power, wisdom, and love.  God by nature is supernatural and He divinely intervenes in His creation however He wants.  He is not bound by the very natural laws He originated.  He's more than the state highway police traveling as fast as He wants to enforce His own laws.

What's harder?  An instantaneous universe with an apparent appearance of fourteen billion years or thousands of separate bread loaves and fully grown fish?  Think of even the milling process for flour.  Where was the mill stone?  There was none.  Flour itself was skipped.  What's harder, the instantaneous creation of matter or the instantaneous formation of that matter to a mature appearing universe?  Both are impossible, except with God.  If you can believe the first, you can also believe the second.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Reading through the Bible for my second time this year, I arrived at Leviticus again and the word "profane" stood out to me.  It is found 26 times in the Old Testament of the King James Version and seven in the New.  Fifteen of those total times are in Leviticus.

In eighteenth century English dictionaries, to profane something is to violate something sacred.  The Universal English Dictionary in 1706 defines "profane":

Ungodly, unholy, irreligious, wicked; unhallowed, common, ordinary:  It is often opposed to sacred.

The Hebrew word, translated "profane," also many times means and is translated "to bore or to pierce."  Something is added that is not natural to a thing when it is pierced.  It is violated.  I like to use the analogy of a dirty dish placed with the clean dishes.

Here are the fifteen usages of the English word "profane" in Leviticus, all found in five of the chapters.

Leviticus 18:21, And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:12, And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 20:3, And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.

Leviticus 21:4, But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.

6, They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.

7, They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.

9, And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

12, Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD.

14, A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

15, Neither shall he profane his seed among his people: for I the LORD do sanctify him.

23 Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.

Leviticus 22:2, Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.

9, They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the LORD do sanctify them.

15, And they shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, which they offer unto the LORD.

32, Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you.

Profane, you can see, is an adjective, noun, or verb.  As a verb, the Hebrew word (chalal) means, "to be commonly used."  The Hebrew word is also translated in the King James Version, "pollute" (Numbers 18:32).  An understanding of "profane" must be taken in contrast to sacred, hallowed, or holy.

Something sacred is kept separate, not mixed with the common.  By mixing it with the common, it is profaned or becomes profane, which is the opposite of holy.  By adding something common to something sacred, the sacred is profaned.  It is no longer hallowed or kept separate.  The common is something not sacred, so it is of a different nature than the sacred or the holy.  For something to remain holy, it must be kept distinct, and a difference must be kept between the holy and the profane in order to keep sanctified that what is holy.  This is especially in important in worship and Leviticus is a guidebook for worship.

To keep something hallowed that is sacred, one must understand it's nature.  What makes it holy?  What is this act, thing, or person in its essence.  Then only something of that essence or of the same kind can be associated with it, brought into contact with it, or linked with it or correlated to it.  It's worth reading all the usages above from Leviticus.

The first usage in Leviticus of "profane" reads, "neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God."  It does not explain what that is.  It assumes the reader knows what that is.

"The name of God" is who God is.   It's what characterizes Him in His Person and Work.  To profane His name is to associate or correlate with Him something that is contrary to His nature.  It disrespects Him.  It dishonors Him. It mischaracterizes Him, and this is very serious to do to God, so God adds, "I am the LORD."  John Gill writes about this:  "I [am] the Lord; who would avenge such a profanation of his name."  God isn't going to allow someone to keep profaning His name.

I'm going to select a few of the above examples to give the sense or understanding of "profane."  Leviticus 21:12 says, "Neither shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God."  To profane the sanctuary is to make it common.  It's a sacred place and it is treated as a common place, not unique to God.  This is not just profaning God, but profaning God's sanctuary, something closely associated with God.

Leviticus 22:1-2 say,

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.

Those who had become common and, therefore, not holy, were not qualified to offer than holy sacrifices.  God would be profaned by the unholy offering the holy.   The person himself could profane God and the worship of God and the thing offered could be profaned so as to profane God and the worship of Him.  Common things, which are unholy, are to be kept out of worship.  They may not even be evil -- they're just common.  Something is made common when it is not treated in a unique or sacred manner, but is treated like everything else.

How people understand God in their imagination comes in a major way through association.  Not only does God take offense at it, because it disrespects Him, but it also gives people as much as anything a wrong view of God.  Someone will have a lesser view of God, a diminished understanding of Him, and that will affect a person's life.  He may not believe in the true God or live in accordance with the true God.

As much as anything today as an application of profane is the mixture in worship in the contemporary churches what is common with what it holy.  Professing churches give God profane worship and they profane God.  They give Him something worldly, lustful, and distorted so as to blaspheme God.  The people then become like their worship.  They themselves are profane and this just results in even further profanity of God and of their lives.  The world doesn't know God because of the correlation of the common or the profane with God in professing churches.  The people of these professing churches are made common and profane as they blaspheme God with their profanity.

Monday, July 19, 2021

A Test of Faith: Doing What You Know to Be Good Rather Than What Is Merely Permissible

Is what God wants you to do what you want to do?  There may be no law that requires you to do what God wants you to do, but doing what He wants is still a test of your faith, that is, a test for whether you truly believe in Him or not.

The book of James records tests of faith to decide whether someone possesses saving faith.  A saved man is not double minded.  He chooses what God wants because He believes that.  He's not tossed around like a wave of the sea.

A test arises in man's lust.  Rather than depending on God, He lusts and desires to have.  He's more of a friend of the world than he is of God.  Someone that doesn't want to do what God wants, which manifests itself in not praying for what God wants, isn't submitted to God or humble.  In general, God will resist that person.  It is pride and barrier to the grace of God.

In and of itself, it isn't a sin to go into a city, buy, sell, and get gain (James 4:13).  It is a sin to do that if God wants you to be doing something else.  Doing what is merely permissible is not a replacement for doing what God wants you to do.  When you know to do good and you don't do it, that is, you do something just permissible or lawful, it's still sin, even though there isn't anything wrong with it in and of itself.

People in heaven always do the will of God.   They always to what God wants.  Our overarching or overriding presupposition should be to do the will of God.  Our life isn't long enough to do both what we want and what God wants (James 4:14).  We ought to be saying, if the Lord will, we will do this or that (James 4:15).  This is a test of faith.  Faith doesn't come down to doing merely what is lawful or permitted to do, but doing what God wants.  He that enters into the kingdom of heaven is he who as a lifestyle does the will of God (Matthew 7:21), because he is the one who genuinely believes.

When as a habit we do not do what God wants, we're being covetous, which is idolatry.  We are putting what we want ahead of what God wants.  One reason cities are not being evangelized, even though there are hundreds of professing Christians in them or near them, is because those professing Christians care less about what God wants than they do about what they want.  God cares about evangelism, but they don't, or at least they don't care enough about it.

When the choice arises for a true believer to do what he wants, he will combat that temptation.  He will as a practice, want nothing.  He will stand up to that temptation as a regular lifestyle.  He will endure the temptation, that is, be patient.  His life isn't about what He wants, but about what God wants.

The world says, do what you want, but faith overcomes the world.  Faith sees a continuing city, whose builder and maker is God.  Faith sees the lasting nature of what God wants and the temporality of what I want.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Elimination of Practices and Activities Deemed Dispensable By the Truth About Real Gain

You can do certain things.  They're permissible, sure.  They're not wrong per se.  Paul argue that's not how we should choose to do things.   We might like them.  They might be fun.

Paul could have made money off of his preaching.  According to him in 1 Corinthians 9, he even deserved it.  Those who preach of the gospel, he said, should live of the gospel.  However, he willingly gave up that support for the sake of the gospel.  As an evangelist or missionary, taking monetary support for preaching the gospel could diminish the effects of his preaching.

The money Paul could have made was a type of gain.  It's still a well-known type of gain.  Gain is an economics term, like "capital gains."  Adam Smith in his classic, Wealth of Nations, begins chapter ten by saying:

The five following are the principal circumstances which, so far as I have been able to observe, make up for a small pecuniary gain in some employments, and counterbalance a great one in others.

Then he names those five principles circumstances and elaborates on them.  You see his use of the word "gain."  He uses it 17 times in that chapter.  In the next paragraph, he writes:

Honour makes a great part of the reward of all honourable professions. In point of pecuniary gain, all things considered, they are generally under-recompensed, as I shall endeavour to show by and by. Disgrace has the contrary effect. The trade of a butcher is a brutal and an odious business; but it is in most places more profitable than the greater part of common trades. The most detestable of all employments, that of public executioner, is, in proportion to the quantity of work done, better paid than any common trade whatever.

He says that honor is the reward of certain honorouble professions, rather than "pecuniary gain."  "Pecuniary" is "related to or consisting of money."  He implies there are other types of gain, like honor.  Honor is a kind of gain, not pecuniary, but one to be chosen over money apparently.  The profession brings honor, if it doesn't bring money.

The Apostle Paul refers to gain again and again in scripture, and this is seen in 1 Corinthians 9 in a section that most label as a section on Christian liberty.  I respect that idea that 1 Corinthians 6-10 is about Christian liberty.  I don't mind it, but it is worth looking at it from the perspective of the definition of real gain.

God created man for a relationship with Him.  The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 16:26,

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

There's that word "gain."  The implication here is that someone profits nothing, even if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.  Luke 9:25 says,

For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

In the King James Version, Paul uses the word "gain" five times.  He writes first in 1 Corinthians 9:19,

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

Instead of taking pecuniary gain, Paul wanted heavenly gain.  He gave up the former for the latter.  Pecuniary gain was dispensable.  His own soul and the souls of the lost were not dispensable.  He dispensed of one to gain the other.  He goes on to use the word "gain."  Verse 22 is the last use:
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Then Paul uses the example of athletes or competitors who discipline themselves for a prize.  They dispense of personal comforts to win something temporal.  They are an example.  Paul says, decide and live and choose based upon real gain.  Dispense of false gain.  It isn't gain.

When Paul gives his testimony, he credits this thought in his own salvation.  Philippians 3:7 reads,
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul's own salvation meant accessing real gain.  What was once gain to him, to be saved, he must count as loss.  Later in his ministry, for others to be saved, what was considered gain by many, he must count as loss.

1 Corinthians 6-10 is less about liberty, more about eliminating practices and activities that are dispensable.  They are not gain.  Paul could say that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).  Real gain is what makes life worth living and death, not just tolerable, but favorable.

In 1 Corinthians 9 besides "gain," Paul uses the words "reward" (vv. 17-18), "without charge" (v. 18), and "prize" (v. 24).  Everyone is working or living for something.  Where is the gain, the reward, and the prize?

At the end of Paul's epistle (1 Corinthians 16:22), he writes:
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. 
Anathema Maranatha means "cursed at His coming."

Do we love the Lord Jesus Christ?  That is, are we truly saved?  If we do, we can and we will eliminate dispensable practices and activities.  They are permissible, but they miss the purpose of God, why we're here on earth as people and especially as believers..

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

What Formed Crater Lake?

Certain questions, like the title of this post, seem rather remote and disconnected from every day life.  Like I like to put it to people, "It seems like an island that has nothing to do with the mainland, so why paddle out to that."  The world, however, takes great note of these questions and their answers.  We should have the true answer and be able to state it -- not to every such question, but to such questions.  We introduce the world to the real world.  They are stuck in their alternative reality and we are responsible to deliver them from it.  I know that today people state it as taking the red pill, but if this is a pill, it's probably not red or blue, but the concept itself is valid.

After about a year in Oregon, a friend and member of our church in California came up to visit on the weekend, we went door-to-door evangelizing Friday and Saturday, had Sunday services, and yesterday, we drove up to Crater Lake, which is also a national park about an hour and a half drive from where we live.  Crater Lake is beautiful.  It is essentially the top of a mountain that has been hollowed out with no outlet and water has accumulated there through various means over a long period of time.  It looks like a crater filled with the brightest blue, almost transparent water.  In the lake is another old volcano that also has a crater, a mini-island within the crater, a mountain within a mountain.  It was hazy, when we visited Crater Lake on Monday, because of wind blowing smoke up from fires in California.  Nevertheless, the views, as we drove all the way around and hiked to two locations and got out of the car at least ten times to look, were awe inspiring (if you click on the pictures, they get bigger and better).

Requisite now for national parks, which are very often very beautiful, are historical and apparent scientific explanations.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and it is the ninth deepest lake in the world.  At many of the scenic overlooks were placards and displays that talked about the formation.

The explanation for Crater Lake is that it was Mount Mazama, which became an active volcanoe, which erupted 6,000 to 8,000 years ago which blew out twelve cubit miles worth of material to form a cadera, the gigantic crater.  That bowl filled up with water from huge snows and the melting of the snow pack in the winter.  Since there are no inlets or outlets, it is very pure water, some of the purest of the world, and it is estimated the water completely changes every 250 years through the exchange of evaporation and precipitation.

If you read the descriptions on any of the placards or displays, there is no mention of God.  God does not enter into the explanation.  He should.  Crater Lake formed by means of a universal flood over the entire earth from which the original water also came.  Yes, it has since been replenished in the way described, but was a lake at the time of the great flood, revealed in Genesis 6-9 in the Bible.

God was angry with mankind and so He revealed to a righteous man, named Noah, that rain and a flood and destruction werre coming, because of man's sin.  Man was sinning and unrepentant of it.  Violating the moral law of God brings consequences.  God doesn't allow man to interminably get away with sin.  He reacts with righteous indignation and true justice.

God is also merciful, because he instructed Noah to preach to mankind to warn him for 120 years.  God also provided for a way to instruct the destruction of the flood, an ark.  Noah and his family would build the ark to save whoever would repent and believe.  No one did, so except for the eight people in Noah's family, everyone died.

The flood changed the topography of the earth.  Water came from beneath the earth's surface and from above.  A feature of the earth before the flood was the firmament, waters which protected the earth from factors that would greatly shorten people's life spans.  Proceeding from God's power, waters broke forth from beneath the surface of the earth and rained down from above it.

The pressure of the water that covered the earth completely changed the topography of the planet.  There was a tremendous upheaval that is responsible for what the earth looks like now.  This occurred by the powerful judgment of God and then the natural forces that followed from that.  Genesis 10 talks about the division of the earth.  It took awhile for the earth to settle.  The population was very small and in one location and everywhere else were massive changes from which are repercussions still today.

The forces at work from the worldwide flood caused volcanic eruptions and huge shifts of the earth's crust, leaving still the consequences of sin in the way of volcanic and seismic activity.  The earth still often shakes with the shifting of plates and destroys what's on the surface, leading to further death.  Giant waves form and hit the shore of populated area, destroying life and property.  The weather that followed the flood has continued to wreak havoc everywhere and all the time with the far less stable living environment than what existed before the flood.  Life changed drastically and it was all because of sin.

God's judgment of sin formed Crater Lake.  It also formed the Rogue Gorge, which is nearby Crater Lake about 45 minutes away.

These formations are beautiful to see.  They are powerful.  All of them have arisen from the power of God's destruction of a former world because of its sin.  No one mentions that at either location, but it is true and it is the most important story at both Crater Lake and Rogue Gorge.

Further judgment is coming to the world.  God has already warned about it.  He wants His children, His saints, to preach about it.  It's obviously nearer today than it ever has been.  Even the smoke over Crater Lake reminds me of that future fire that will destroy the world.  Like Noah and his family could be saved, God offers salvation.  Let's not miss that.  A former world was destroyed without repentance.  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will escape the next judgment of God.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Atheist Quotes from my Debates

 I have a new post with some illuminating quotes from my debates with atheists. Click here to read them.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Defining Pharisaism By Fleshing Out Its Confrontation by the Lord Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount

Terms like Pharisaism and legalism are often blunt instruments used today against churches and individual believers.  They can be much like the word, racism.  People weaponize terms to protect a belief or lifestyle through castigation.  At the worst, they want to eliminate the objects of their scorn.  Maybe they're right about the ones they want to cancel and what they believe and practice.  Is it true though?  Are their targets really Pharisees and legalists?

The Lord Jesus confronted Pharisaism and legalism with His Sermon on the on Mount in Matthew 5-7.  The sermon explains salvation, but in a unique way to cast down the corrupt view of the Pharisees, the religion of the day.  Their teaching was so prevalent everywhere, what Jesus then preached was also dealing with the thinking of everyone in His audience.   Even if He wasn't preaching to Pharisees, He was preaching to Pharisaism and legalism.

Pharisees didn't recognize their spiritual poverty, so they didn't mourn.  Spiritually rich people don't need to mourn because they're already full of righteousness.  As a result, they're not submissive to God.  They don't need God to inherit the earth.  They've got that one covered by themselves and through their own efforts.

Mercy is so weighty, so hard, that it's nearly impossible for an impression of righteousness, not actual righteousness.  Mercy also isn't showy.  It's like what James talks about, visiting widows and the fatherless in their affliction.  That doesn't get the same publicity like Pharisaical religion, which depends on being noticed.  Pharisees have a pure look, except when no one is looking.  They're not pure in heart.

Pharisees don't have real peace, so they can't be peacemakers.  Peacemakers require peace with God themselves.  Ignoring sin won't bring peace.  Peace doesn't come from toleration of sin.  Trying to be good and preaching that to others will leave them still an enemy of God's.

Daniel prophesies the hardship brought on by the Roman government.  It wouldn't and it didn't occur because of righteousness, but because of sin.  Israel wasn't suffering for righteousness.  Individual Jews weren't being persecuted by the Romans.  Followers of God, who would be followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, will be persecuted for righteousness' sake.

Pharisaism doesn't retard corruption like salt.  It hides its light to avoid persecution.  The Pharisees reduced God's law to something they could keep on their own.  Like Jesus, they did not keep the least of God's commandments, neither did they teach men to do so.  Instead, they ranked the commandments and eliminated the ones that are hard to believe and obey.  Because they abolished God's instructions, they added their own as a replacement.

To do everything God wants, someone must trust God.  In other words, his house must be built on the rock, who is Jesus Christ, and not the sand, which is their own efforts.  The actual keeping of everything God says, in order to please Him, is what God wants.  You won't do that if you don't believe in Jesus Christ.

Pharisees came to Jesus to find the greatest of God's laws.  It wasn't so they could keep God's laws, but to reduce them.  Most of evangelicalism fits that description and most of evangelicalism labels Pharisees and legalists those who do not fit that description.  They who do and teach the least of the commandments are called Pharisees.  Those who break them and teach others to do so are the Pharisees.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Christian Patriotism

Christian patriotism could sound like an oxymoron.  Patriotism is devotion to and rigorous support of one's country and Christian is devotion to and rigorous support of Jesus Christ.  If you're really a Christian, then there would not be room for patriotism.  What is true about this?

At some point, some kind of patriotism isn't Christian anymore.  There's a real danger of that.  However, I believe patriotism can be consistent with being a Christian.  It's even good and right to a certain extent that is still in the bounds of actual patriotism.  Some will disagree and I think in many cases it is harmful disagreement.

Right now, it seems to me that about thirty percent of Americans do not love the flag.  In a recent article in the New York Times, an article, "A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite," starts by telling the story of a produce salesman, who couldn't sell his potatoes to locals because he displayed the American flag.  They associated that with something evil.  The theme of the story is that the American flag is a polarizing symbol, not a unifying one.

The state itself wants to change the story of America that is told to children growing up in its school system.  It's a version of history that isn't happy about America, let alone patriotic.  I would assert that those who attack America are an almost exact overlap of those who will attack Christianity today.  They're the same people.  Some patriotic Americans now don't feel free expressing patriotism.  Now the American flag associates with Christianity to many and they're either happy or unhappy with it in a divisive way.

Where does patriotism go too far?   God isn't worshiped by singing a patriotic song; He isn’t.  We won’t sing patriotic songs as an act of worship.  Mormons have a view very close to the idea that the U.S. Constitution is inspired by God.  That’s also not true.

Christian patriotism could be something in the trajectory of Paul’s claiming and using Roman citizenship.  It was helpful to him based upon the providence of God.  The providence of God is a practical ramification of the sovereignty of God.  Because of the power, wisdom, and love of God, we can know that He allows and causes everything, so that He is working all things together for good to those who love God.  We look for those ways.

The United States is an example of the providence of God, especially the idea of America, and any way that the scriptural aspects of this idea are upheld.  By being patriotic, we are being thankful to God for what He has done.  We want to support this.  We want to hang on to this.  We don’t want to lose this. 

America is a part of the plan of God.  God has used the country insofar that America has held to scriptural concepts and a belief in the true God.  Righteousness has exalted the nation.  Sin on the other hand is increasingly though being a reproach to the nation, and genuine Christians would do well as salt to retard that corruption in a patriotic manner.

Christian patriotism is loyal to the preservation of a righteous nation as salt.  Why retard corruption?  Why not let the nation die?  This isn't God's will for a Christian.  A true patriot will embrace what makes America great and preserve it.  To keep it, you've got to know what it is.  You've got to teach it.  When people try to keep you from teaching it, you try to do something about that.

Christian patriotism connects with something in the past to celebrate.  There is something to shoot off fireworks, wear red, white, and blue, and be thankful to God.  Nations are in the will of God.  The preservation of those nations requires true affection for what truly makes them great.  Patriotism and this affection might be one and the same.

Friday, July 02, 2021