Monday, March 17, 2014

SHERLOCK HOLMES - A BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN?

OK, I thought I’d write an attention grabbing title to pique the curiosity of you readers. I think it worked because here you are! Obviously Sherlock Holmes is a fictitious character, and was never portrayed as a Christian of any kind, much less a biblical one (as opposed to a religious, philosophical or social ‘Christian’ – in name only).

“So what gives?” you might ask; “Why the title?”

There are many stories that I’ve read and loved as a child; in my lack of many friends, books were my company and the characters in those stories were like dear companions. Whether you talked about Frodo Baggins from The LORD of the RINGS or Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I felt a strong connection to them all.
Maybe because I’m getting older now and prone to nostalgia, but after watching some made for television films in the BBC series called SHERLOCK (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman), I got my Collective Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle off the shelf and started reading some of those old stories.

As I noticed the “method” of the renowned consulting detective, I realized something rather interesting. Let me first explain this ‘method’ to you as Holmes himself describes it:

”You see (he says to Watson) but you do not observe.” This is true of so many of us; we see things without really looking and observing them – our minds are so cluttered and busy, we don’t stop and really scrutinize and think about things we commonly see.
Proper deduction, so Holmes says, can only come about with proper observation and the only proper action can come about once the only proper deductions have been made.

It is this method that is used by the careful student of the Bible as well! Proper and insightful biblical study can only come about when such methods as the following are employed: observation, interpretation and application.

Observational – What does the Bible actually say; not what we think it says from any prejudicial perspective of our own because of the denomination we were raised in, or because of how we’ve been instructed by various teachers, but what does the text of Scripture actually say? In order to extract from Holy Writ what any particular passage says, we use these words of inquiry: who, what, where, when, how and why.
As we read Scripture we ask:
Who is speaking? Who is being addressed?
What is being said? What is the context of this passage? What are the biblical truths being expounded upon?
Where does this passage take place geographically? Where does the truth expounded upon fit in with other Scripture?
When did this declaration in Scripture take place historically? When does the truth of this passage have validity or when is its application suitable?
How does our understanding of truth benefit from this passage? How does this verse fit in with all the counsel of God? How do we conduct ourselves in light of this Scripture?
Why is this verse important? Why did the LORD see fit to include this truth for us so that we may glean its truth?

Just like the Super Sleuth Sherlock Holmes goes on a fact finding mission in order to solve the mystery at hand, we Christians are seeking truth in the pages of Scripture so that we may understand the mystery that is the LORD.

ISAIAH 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Just as no human can really know the thoughts of another human being, but only one’s own thoughts that emanate from one’s own mind, no one can know the thoughts of God except they know His mind (or Spirit actually) and only those who are partakers of His Spirit via the new birth can understand the mind of the LORD – as the Spirit grants us understanding (See 1 COR. 2:10-12).

So whereas Sherlock would use his keen, highly and proficiently trained mind along with his magnifying lens to ferret out clues that are stubbornly hidden from sight, we employ the Spirit of God that indwells us believers along with the wisdom of God which He imparts (and none of our own wisdom, intellect or understanding) and the Scriptures to understand the mystery of God (1 COR. 2:7; COL. 2:2; REV. 10:7).

Just as Sherlock would explore a crime scene, we explore the many biblical ‘scenes’ of various passages, carefully observing the many ‘clues’ found in key phrases, words, idioms and cross references. Both detective and disciple desire to form a coalescing picture that forms the truth of the matter, one that can be readily perceived and understood, so that the truth may be revealed. Once careful observation has been concluded, all the facts extracted that may be, one must make the proper deductions or in the case of the Christian specifically, the proper interpretations from which we derive certain deductions.


Interpretational – The largest aspect of interpretational exercise in the study of Scripture is inductive, which is to say, one must resort to the whole of Scripture in search of all places and references that deal with the subject at hand in the context of the passage of Scripture being examined.
For example, if one is studying the Gospel of John, chapter 3 and the phrase “born again” is being examined, one would seek out all other passages that relate to spiritual rebirth, such as JER 31:33; EZEKIEL 11:19; 36:26; JHN 1:12-13; 2 COR. 5:17; EPHESIANS 2:15; 4:24; COL. 3:10; TITUS 3:5; 1 PETER 1:23; 1 JHN 5:1. Once such a composite is constructed by accessing all the verses that deal with any particular subject, and careful observation has been made, one may reasonably (guided by the Spirit) begin to compose the summary understanding of all these verses. What the new birth is, how it is acquired, what is its purpose and benefits and results, etc.

Holmes would sometimes form a theory that would seem right until further information came to light that contradicted it, and thereupon dismiss said theory in favor of another in which all the facts are in harmony.
Interpretation of any single verse must be in alignment with the rest of Scripture that deals with whatever doctrinal truth you are studying; if any interpretation does violence with any of all the related truth of Scripture, it is unsound and must be re-examined on an observational level and a reassessment of interpretation is required until the understanding is in unity with the whole body of truth which is the Bible.

Just as Holmes was sometimes confronted with conflicting data that would initially mystify him, so too the Christian may find apparent contradictions in Scripture. Please note this: I said apparent contradictions because sometimes verses may appear to contradict each other*. The reality is, that it’s our own understanding that is in error; we must prayerfully seek the LORD and His wisdom (and let us not ‘cheat’ by consulting others for an answer, and by so doing deprive ourselves of the precious opportunity of being tutored by the LORD Himself!). In time, as we patiently seek the LORD, He will impart the understanding, whether it takes 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks or even months!
* A good example of this is the apparent contradiction between Paul’s declaration that we are saved by faith alone and what James says, which is faith without works is dead (See ROM. 4:1-5 and JAMES 2:17-26).

Application – Once the Great Detective made the proper observations and deductions, he was able to make the proper judgments based on the conclusive evidence; so too the humble disciple can approach the application of his study of God’s Word having made the correct observations and interpretation; that is, he now can properly apply the truth of God’s Word to his life once he understands what Scripture instructs him to do.
It’s been said before, but the study of doctrine alone is insufficient for the Christian. There must be a practice of what has been learned. The first two letters of doctrine are “do”.
What we must remember is that the “doing of the doctrine” is not left up to our own resolve or power; we must surrender to Christ, and allow His grace to work in us that which is pleasing to the Father as we yield our members to righteousness (ROM. 6:13, 19).

Let us remember the words of our LORD Jesus Christ:

MATTHEW 7:24-27
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
It’s a sobering thought indeed when we consider that we can only understand the depths of Scripture by the Spirit of God, and yet in the above passage, in verse 26 we see the example of one who “heareth”, that is, understands the sayings of Jesus, i.e., the Word of God – and yet because he doesn’t obey, his house is not on the Rock, but rather on the shifting, unstable sand and it will inevitably fall.

In almost every story of Sherlock Holmes, the title begins with “The Adventure of . . .” and so it is in our study of God’s most Holy Word! It is truly an adventure of grand proportions to explore this Book, whose Author dwells in Eternity and whose knowledge and wisdom are everlasting.
You and I are privileged and honored to open these sacred pages of Scripture and with the magnifying lens of the Spirit and with the mind of Christ we venture into its territories to explore the beauty of holiness and profound truth of the One Who loves us enough to send His very best: the LORD JESUS Who died for our sins, rose again from the dead in absolute and incontestable victory and has granted us His Spirit, producing in us everlasting life!

Just as Watson accompanied Holmes who would instruct the good doctor in how he arrived at his amazing conclusions via such successful deductions he was prone to make, we have our Blessed Companion who accompanies us as we journey the length and breadth of Scripture, and Who instructs us in this grand adventure. Let us walk with Him and become the Scriptural and saintly sleuths that He may enable us to be (GALATIANS 1:12; EPHESIANS 4:21). THE GAME IS AFOOT, INDEED!

EPHESIANS 4:1-3

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
.

See also Secrets Among Friends 

Monday, February 24, 2014

FAITH vs. LOGIC: Compatible or Contrary? Part Three

Skeptics and cynics, atheists and agnostics, and countless others throughout history have proclaimed that the Bible is an illogical book, full of errors and irrational assertions. Yet in part 2 we saw that there are no irrationalities to what the Bible plainly declares in its tenets of truth.

That somehow faith and logic are not at all compatible is the idea conveyed by humanists and evolutionists in our day; but as we showed previously, faith doesn’t go against reason so much as it merely goes above it:

Logic and the Mysteries of Faith – Some object that the great Christian mysteries, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation and predestination violate laws of human reason. There is a difference between propositions that go beyond reason, such as the mysteries of faith, and those that go against reason. Those that go beyond human ability to reason do not go against reason. Human understanding unaided by special revelation cannot reach them. They can only be known by special revelation. Once these truths are known, their premises do not contradict other revealed truth.”

Logic and reason that proves the Word of God to be reliable can lead a person to expressing faith in the Word, and through faith that person can be led to the Savior and to salvation.

As Peter stated in his first epistle:

1 PETER 3:15

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

If it were not possible to present reasonable and rational evidences for believing the Bible, which alone contains the hope we as Christians possess, Peter under the anointing of the Holy Spirit would have never given us this admonition. “Reason” here in the Greek is apologia, which is where we get the discipline of apologetics from. Obviously Christian apologetic ministries abound and they clearly have an impact on the thinking of those who are lost.

Ray Comfort is an able apologist and evangelist and by reasoning with ‘the man on the street’ has had a profound impact on the thinking of lost souls; for such an example, consider his film entitled 180.

God is a rational being, thus He created us as such; however – we are finite and sentient creatures – our minds have a limitation in awareness, perceptions, reasoning and knowledge. God is not limited in any of these things for He is omniscient (knowing all things).
So while logic can be a viable tool to prove that which we are able to understand about the Bible; faith is the means by which we trust in God and what He has said in His Word for that which we cannot understand (apart from revelation granted to us by His Spirit).

Any born again Christian can attest to the fact that prior to salvation, there were things about the Bible (certainly not everything) that didn’t make sense to them; and that once they received Christ Jesus as LORD and Savior (JN. 1:12) and indwelt by the Spirit of God (JN. 14:17) they could suddenly understand passages of Scripture that were once a mystery to them. Even after years of Bible study, passages that proved enigmatic suddenly sprang into a bursting light of understanding – as the Spirit of God teaches the seeking believer (JN. 16:13).

A small child may understand that Daddy and Mommy cook food on top of that immense, square shaped thing with lots of dials on the front, and that they produce all kinds of delicious and hot food from it. What they may not understand is that if they touch that stove, they may get burned.
Mommy and Daddy implore their little one to stay away from that stove. The child knows logically that his meals come from that huge box-like device, but may not understand that he will get burned by it. His understanding is based upon his experiences. He has had the experience of eating food that was prepared on the stove; but he has never had the experience of getting burned by it. For this, he must trust his parents that what they are saying is true (until such a time that he does touch the stove and receives a burn from it, whereupon he will discover that what his parents told him was true).
The parents have a greater awareness than the little child and know as a fact, that if their child touches that hot stove, they will get burned. They understand the rationality of this fact even if the child does not.

God understands all things, and though He will often give human beings instruction that they either don’t understand or believe to be nonsensical, they are nonetheless true.

There was a time when hygiene was practically unheard of among humans; the washing of hands before eating and burying excrement, etc. yet these things were recorded in Scripture for Israel to follow. Though seen as unnecessary or preposterous by neighboring nations, we understand all about germs, bacteria and diseases today. Israel accepted and practiced by faith, what we understand by reason and science today.

The science of centuries gone by as well as the common belief among people was that the Earth was flat, and yet the Bible speaks exactingly about the Earth being a globe (IS. 40:22); Scripture even tells us that the Earth is hung upon “nothing” whereas ancient man believed it rested on the backs of four supremely giant elephants that themselves stood on the shell of a universal tortoise (JOB 26:7). What ancient man would have scoffed at back then because of a lack of understanding, we know as a scientific fact today. Yet the Scriptures themselves (written by men under the anointing of the Holy Spirit) declare what science only relatively recently has informed us of.

So we see that reason and faith are not adversarial or contrary to one another, but rather they are compatible and complementary.

From ANSWERS In GENESIS we have the following article by Dr. Jason Lisle (Dr. Jason Lisle holds a PhD in astrophysics from University of Colorado at Boulder and is a popular speaker and researcher for Answers in Genesis–USA. Dr. Lisle uses his knowledge of the heavens and his biblical perspective to proclaim the handiwork of God in lectures, including Distant Starlight and Creation Astronomy.):

FAITH vs. REASON by Dr. Jason Lisle

Some Christians have the idea that faith and reason are in conflict, divided by some unbridgeable chasm. They think that one takes over where the other leaves off. In reality, faith and reason work together seamlessly to help us know and love our Maker.

 Many Christians perceive a conflict between reason and faith. On the one hand, God tells us to reason (Isaiah 1:18). We are to have a good reason for what we believe, and we are to be always ready to share that reason with other people (1 Peter 3:15). So we attempt to show unbelievers that our belief in the Scriptures is reasonable, justified, and logically defensible. The Bible makes sense.
On the other hand, we are supposed to have faith. We are supposed to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible tells us that the “just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). It seems that we are supposed to trust God regardless of whether His words make sense to our understanding.
So, which is it? Are we to live by reason or by faith? Are we supposed to rely upon our intellect, drawing rational conclusions, rejecting those things that don’t make sense? Or are we to accept the teachings of Scripture without regard to logic and reason, even if it does not make any sense?
This apparent conflict troubles many people. But it stems from a critical misconception about the meaning of both faith and reason. When both terms are properly defined in their biblical context, any apparent conflict disappears. Yes, we are to have good reasons for what we believe, and we are also to have faith. In fact, without the latter, we could not have the former.

Misconceptions of Faith

Mark Twain once defined faith as “believing what you know ain’t so.” Perhaps this is what many people have in mind when they think of the word faith. Indeed some people seem to pride themselves in their belief in the irrational—thinking that such “faith” is very pious. “Why do I believe in the Bible? Well, I guess I just have faith.”
But is this what the Bible means when it uses the word faith? Not at all. The Bible does not promote a belief in the irrational or any type of unwarranted “blind faith.”
Some people have said, “Faith takes over where reason leaves off.” Taken this way, rationality is seen as a bridge that reaches only partway across a great chasm; faith is needed to complete the bridge and reach the other side.
People who take this view would say that Christianity cannot be proven, that reason leads us most of the way to God and then we must make a “leap of faith” in order to say that Jesus is Lord. This is a very common view among Christians. But this is not what God’s Word teaches about faith.

Biblical Faith

The Bible itself tells us what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So biblical faith is not blind but is strongly warranted confidence. The phrase “hoped for” does not imply a mere wishful thinking as in “I sure hope the weather is nice next week.” Rather, the Greek word (ελπιζω) indicates a confident expectation: the kind of confidence we have when we have a good reason to believe something.
Biblically, faith is having confidence in something you have not experienced with your senses. Biblical faith is not “blind”; it’s not the act of “believing without a reason.” Just the opposite; biblical faith is the act of believing in something unseen for which we do have a good reason.
For example, when we believe that God will keep a promise, this constitutes faith because we cannot “see” it and yet we have a good reason for it: God has demonstrated that He keeps His promises.

 The Place of Reason

As many people have misunderstandings of faith, they also have misunderstandings of reason. Reason is a tool that God has given us that allows us to draw conclusions and inferences from other information, such as the information He has given us in His Word. Reason is an essential part of Christianity; God tells us to reason (Isaiah 1:18) as the apostle Paul did (Acts 17:17).
In fact, I could not know that I am saved apart from using reason. After all, the Bible nowhere says that “Dr. Lisle is saved.” Instead it tells me that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I have genuinely acknowledged that Jesus is Lord, and I believe that God raised Him from the dead. Therefore, I am saved. I must use logical reasoning to draw this conclusion.
This is perfectly appropriate and is the kind of reasoning God expects us to use. We are to reason from the principles of God’s Word.
People misuse reason when they frame their worldview apart from God’s Word. This can involve either treating reason as its own ultimate standard (in other words, a replacement for God’s Word) or tossing it aside as irrelevant to faith.
Neither of these positions is biblical. We are never to attempt to reason in opposition to the Word of God. That is to say we are not to treat God’s Word as a mere hypothesis that is subject to our fallible understanding of the universe.
This, after all, was Eve’s mistake. She attempted to use her mind and senses to judge God’s Word (Genesis 3:6). This was sinful and irrational; she was trying to use a fallible standard to judge an infallible one.
We are never to “reason” in such an absurd, sinful way. Instead, we are supposed to reason from God’s Word, taking it as our ultimate unquestionable starting point. Any alternative is arbitrary and self-refuting. Reason is not a substitute for God; rather, it is a gift from God.
On the other hand, we are not to reject reason. God is rational, and so we should be, too (Ephesians 5:1). We are commanded to seek wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 4:5, 7). God wants us to use the mind He has given us. But He wants us to use our minds properly, in a way that is honoring to Him.

 Faith Is Necessary for Reason

Biblical faith and biblical reasoning actually work very well together. In fact, faith is a prerequisite for reason. In order to reason about anything we must have faith that there are laws of logic which correctly prescribe the correct chain of reasoning. Since laws of logic cannot be observed with the senses, our confidence in them is a type of faith.
For the Christian, it is a reasonable, justified faith. The Christian would expect to find a standard of reasoning that reflects the thinking of the biblical God; that’s what laws of logic are. On the other hand, the unbeliever cannot account for laws of logic with his or her own worldview.
Since laws of logic are necessary for reasoning, and since the Christian faith is the only faith system that can make sense of them, it follows that the Christian faith is the logical foundation for all reasoning (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3). This isn’t to say, of course, that non-Christians cannot reason. Rather, it simply means they are being inconsistent when they reason; they are borrowing from a worldview contrary to the one they profess.
Since reason would be impossible without laws of logic, which stem from the Christian faith, we have a very good reason for our faith: without our faith we could not reason. Even unbelievers (inconsistently) rely upon Christian principles, such as logic, whenever they reason about anything. So the Christian has a good reason for his or her faith. In fact, the Christian faith system makes reason possible.

Can We “Reason” Someone to Heaven?

Although reasoning from the Scriptures is an important part of the Christian’s life, reason alone is not sufficient to lead us to Christ.

After the fall of Adam, human beings no longer possessed the ability to correctly understand spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is our nature to distort the truth (2 Peter 3:16). So we need the help of the Holy Spirit even to understand and accept the fact that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).
This explains why it is impossible to “reason someone into heaven.” Salvation is accomplished by God’s grace received through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5). It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convinces people and enables them to receive Christ (John 16:8–15).
Some may ask, “Why then should we do apologetics? Why should we try to reason with people if it is the Holy Spirit who will ultimately convince them?”
There are two reasons.
First, God tells us to. We are to be ready at all times to give a good reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). So it is our duty as followers of Christ to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2) and reason with unbelievers (Acts 17:17).
Second, God can bless our discussions with unbelievers and use them as part of the process by which He brings people to Himself (Romans 10:13–14). Although salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, God has given us the privilege of telling others about this good news and making a reasoned defense of it.
Reasoning is a crucial part of defending the faith. But we must always keep in mind that conversion is up to God alone. It is not our job to “convince” the unbeliever—nor can we. It is our job to make a good case; it is the Holy Spirit’s prerogative alone to bring repentance.
One Christian may plant a seed, and another, water it but God alone brings the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). This concludes the article by Dr. Lisle.
 For your consideration, here is a debate that took place between the founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham and Bill Nye, “the Science Guy”. At this site, you can purchase this debate in various formats including downloads and dvds.

This concludes the article FROM the MIND of FIRE and this three part series!

FOUNDATIONS – HOLY or PROFANE: PART 3 of 3

Since this third part includes a link to another FMF article, this last part will be much shorter, as the reader is encouraged to check out the other article entitled, How Firm A Foundation.


The TESTING of GOD – HEAVENS SHAKING TO REVEAL THE FAKING


Just as the Corner Stone, the very Foundation of God’s Kingdom being Christ Himself was tested in every way conceivable, yet without sin (HEB. 4:15) and remained steadfast and immoveable, so too this world and all in it will be tested: sinner and saint when the “great shaking” comes, spoken of by the prophets, most notably Haggai and Joel. Even now, there are lesser ‘shakings’ going on that test our faith.
Only those founded on the Rock will endure these shaking, and great storms that will assail the two houses represented in MATT. 7:7-28. Will you declare, as did Joshua before, that as for you and your house, you will serve the LORD (JOSH 24:15)?

There is coming a day when national Israel will see the Messiah arriving (for the Second Time!) to save them from their enemies (most notably the Beast and his armies; Rev. 19:11-20) and establish His Kingdom in Zion, the city of the LORD; and at that time the nation of Israel will be exalted in prominence above all the nations of the world:

ISAIAH 60:14

14 The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee; The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.


We have addressed this great testing in a previous article on FMF called How Firm A Foundation.

 WHICH WISDOM DO YOU WANT?


Note that it’s the wise man who builds his house upon the Rock and I would like to address this issue of wisdom because there are various sources: Divine as from the Scripture of God, carnal wisdom as derivative of human thought, and demonic as that which is of the spirit of Satan.

Just as wisdom is closely associated with discernment, we likewise must employ both to perceive the inner and underlying substance of the things we see in this world – which of these things are in accord with the wisdom of God (COL. 1:28) and which of these oppose this wisdom (which would consist of both human and devilish wisdom)? We, like Paul, must be wise master builders who can only lay Christ as the sure foundation in our lives and in the lives of those we evangelize (1 COR. 3:9-11).

Wisdom and discernment comes from the Word of God as well as from the Spirit of God as amply shown in Scripture itself, in such passages as HEB. 4:16 and 5:13-14; IS. 11:2; 1 COR. 12:10; PS. 119:99 and many others.
In as much as we heed the words of Christ, and obey them we are standing upon the ROCK and are ‘storm proofing’ our lives, and the wisdom by the Spirit no less guides and directs our lives so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom (PS. 90:12; PROV. 2:2).

The Holy Spirit Himself grants to us the wisdom of Christ (1 COR. 2:13; PS. 86:11), the Third Person of the Trinity is our teacher (1 COR. 2:13); our Instructor (NEH. 9:20); our Guide (LK. 12:12); our Comforter (JN. 14:26); and our Anointer (1 JN. 2:27) and He is absolutely and necessarily involved in establishing and keeping us upon that holy foundation which shall endure beyond the life span of this fallen creation. Those without the Spirit of God can only remain upon the profane foundation, unless they repent and change their allegiance from the kingdom of Darkness to the kingdom of Light!

And just as God shall test everyone of us by His ‘shakings’ He likewise purges us, His saints even now, by way of fiery trials and through the purity of God’s Spirit Himself, refines us like gold being purified of its dross, for our God is a consuming fire (HEB. 12:29) and this same fire that purifies, refines and strengthens saints, will ruin and destroy every unrepentant, unredeemed sinner (2 THESS. 1:7-9) who refuses God His rightful place as absolute Ruler of their lives (IS. 45:22-24; ROM. 14:11; yet, certainly not a tyrannical Ruler, but a gentle and gracious One; see MT. 11:29).


HEBREWS 12:28-29

28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
29 For our God is a consuming fire.
For more verses that contrast God’s wisdom from other sources (which will surely be our faithful counsel and guide in distinguishing between the holy foundation from the profane), consider these: ROM. 1:22; 1 COR. 1:19; 2:6; 3:19-20; 2 COR. 1:12; COL. 2:23; JAMES 3:15.

So then, there are two primary considerations that we come away with from this study on FOUNDATIONS: The foundation of our lives as individuals and whether we choose the Holy or the Profane and by this choice we determine the course of our lives from now and into eternity in heaven or hell.

The other consideration is to realize that no matter what foundation we may choose, “the foundation of God remains sure” and shall endure forever and ever. Evil, sin and rebellion will not endure the great shaking of God’s wrath and judgment, but soundly and certainly be consigned to eternal damnation. The LORD God will then proceed in His eternal kingdom to rule and reign in His benevolent grace and majestic holiness, blessing forever those saints that have embraced the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FOUNDATIONS – HOLY or PROFANE: PART 2 of 3

We now continue to examine the Biblical concept of ZION and what it represents. It should be noted that ZION is the Biblical mandate and promise declared by God Himself, in which He shall furnish for His saints a Kingdom which shall endure forever. Thus the biblical form of ‘Zionism’ must be wholly embraced by the child of God.
There are those that see the mystical, kabalistic form of Zionism, promoted by people like Rothschild and former Foreign Secretary of England, Arthur James Balfour as evil, and that it is; but they mistakenly associate all forms of Zionism with this occult-motivated brand.

For an explanation of Biblical Zionism, watch this first clip on Dr. Paul Wilkinson’s presentation from this youtube video.


PSALM 87:1-3
His foundation is in the holy mountains.
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God
. Selah.

In ancient cities, walls were erected to protect the inhabitants from enemies that would attack them; among the gates, there was usually a main gate (sometimes two at opposite ends of the city) where chambers were built into the walls (walls were more often than not extremely thick; some like in Nineveh and Babylon were so wide that they could conduct chariot races on top of them!) where officials of state would conduct their business.
Thus when the LORD said that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against [His church]” (MT. 16:18) He was speaking of ‘the authorities of hell’, namely Satan and his kingdom of Darkness which would not prevail against the church (founded upon Himself, the Rock).

Thus the gates of Zion refer to the government of Zion, the head of which is that chief Corner stone, Jesus Christ (1 PET. 2:6). Note that it is referred to as the City of God and since this is the same location as the City of David (The south east quarter just outside of Jerusalem proper) they are virtually synonymous.

In Psalm 102 we read about the prayer of the needy Psalmist because of his own infirmities as well as protection from the persecution of his enemies; he extols the LORD for His power and majesty which is represented in His coming and visible rule in Zion.

PSALM 102:13-16, 21-22, 25-28
13 Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.
14 For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.
15 So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
16 When the Lord shall build up
Zion, he shall appear in his glory.
21 To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
22 When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.
25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
28 The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

The FIRM FOUNDATION of GOD’S KINGDOM And the FLAWED FOUNDATION of the FALLEN
So we see the building up of Zion, and the LORD’s appearance to declare the Name of the LORD in ZION and JERUSALEM where the people are gathered together and kingdoms will serve Him forever, even though the foundations of Earth and Heaven will ultimately perish, but the “foundation of God standeth sure” (2 TIM. 2:19).

This city of God is pictured in Scripture in opposition to the city of Babylon; they are anti-thetical in spirit, ideology and practice. Just as Zion is the city of God, Babylon is the city of Satan. Babylon symbolizes the empire of evil under the direct rule of Satan, whereas Zion symbolizes the kingdom of righteousness and holiness under the direct rule of the Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ, Who is soon to come to this fallen world!

The duality of this theme runs through the course of Scripture:

BABYLON: GEN. 11th Chapter; 2 KINGS 20th and 25th Chapter; IS. 13th  and 14th Chapter; JER. 50th and 51st and the entire book which perfectly depicts the contrasting cities of Babylon and Jerusalem (in her future state of glory); the entire book of DANIEL; MATT Chapter 1; as well as the book of REVELATION, particularly chapters 17 and 18.
JERUSALEM: GEN. 14:18; PS. 76:2; HEB. 7:1-2 where “Salem” is mentioned; JOSH. 10:1, 3, 5, 23; 2 SAM. 5:5; 1 KINGS 2:11; 2 CHRON. 6:6; the entire post-exilic books like EZRA and NEHEMIAH deal with Jerusalem; PS. 51; 102; 122; and so many of the Psalms.
In as much as ISAIAH is the Messianic prophet, Isaiah has much to say about the city of the Messiah; IS. 30:19; 33:20; 40:2, etc.; and ultimately in REV. 21:2, 10); from Genesis to Revelation these two foundations are the only two we humans are granted to choose from.
We see this same dichotomy in 1 Corinthians, the 10th Chapter; particularly 1 COR. 10:1-14 where the contrast is made between the ROCK which is Christ, and the idolatry that Israel committed in the wilderness. Paul’s admonition is that we must beware if we think we stand, lest we fall (if we are not grounded on the Rock).

Note the contrast between the righteous and the wicked in this passage:

PROVERBS 10:24-25, 27-31
24 The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
29 The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
30 The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.
31 The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out
.
Here we can easily perceive the choices made by the wise and the foolish; and why the decisions of both are as they are, simply judging by the results of those choices.

WHOM WILL YOU SERVE, The WORD or the WORLD?

Everything that is a part of this world-system (whose ruler is its god according to 2 COR. 4:4) is built upon the foundation of the kingdom of darkness; whether you talk about governments, economics, religion, society at large, etc. even if the people in this system are ignorant of this truth. If you were to tell any of these, that they are children of the devil, you no doubt would find them shocked, even offended.

In regards to our salvation from the kingdom of darkness, whose foul foundation would ensure the destruction of our lives which were built upon it prior to our coming to Christ, we know that since there are only two foundations to choose from, the only legitimate foundation that can ensure our salvation is Christ Himself (1 COR. 3:11).

We may sometimes wonder why the world is in such turmoil, strife, contention and war; the simple answer is that spiritually there are these two opposing forces: the kingdom of Light and Darkness, and in as much as the people of this world are in allegiance with one or the other, there will inevitably be such unrest and violence as we see on a daily basis.
A sub-set of this contention can be found even within the kingdom of Darkness, because of pride – the very root of sin – each power within this terrible realm vying and striving for supremacy. The domain of evil, as opposed to that of the holy, is a domain of chaos and enslaved order whereas the kingdom of God has its subjects willingly devoted, unrestricted in their love and yielded hearts to our Beloved LORD. No subject of Satan’s can make this boast!

So we begin to get the picture, the overall view of the spiritual domains that are in contention, and understand the necessity to be sure of our foundation; what parts of our lives are built upon either of these. Do we have divided hearts and loyalties and attempt in vain to compartmentalize our allegiances?
Do we find ourselves in allegiance with the Kingdom of Light on Sundays and Wednesday evenings when at church, or in a Saturday night prayer meeting, only to jump to the other foundation on Mondays through Fridays where one must ‘fight to get ahead, and step on others while climbing the ladder of successful living, gaining monetary wealth and prestige that embellishes our sense of pride and self-achievement”?

I have often used the analogy of ‘the Wheel and the Matchbox Car Case’ in describing how we Christians prioritize our lives in all of its parameters (spiritually, mentally, physically, financially, socially, etc.).

If you look at an old wagon wheel, you see the rim is connected by all the spokes that lead from the central hub. Without that hub in the center, the entire wheel would lack a foundation and would obviously collapse.

This is the way biblical Christianity works, where Christ is the hub (EPH. 1:3; 4:15; PHIL. 1:21; 3:8; GAL. 2:19-20; COL. 3:16), the spokes are all the facets of our lives: our home life with all its relationships between spouses and children, parents and siblings as well as our employment and social relationships and of course the relationship that we have with the church; our fellow saints (1 COR. 10:31). The rim is that outward expression of Christ in us that reflects to the entire world from these various spokes (MATT. 5:16). Christ is the foundation and center of our lives and without Him, this ‘wheel’ that is Christianity, could not possibly work.

The other sort of Christian is a religious or philosophical Christian who gives (perhaps) mental assent to the truth of the Bible, and holds a kind of belief in Jesus, perhaps as a great teacher, moral guide, and religious founder and they keep Christianity in one compartment isolated from the other compartments of their lives, much like storing matchbox cars in one of those carrying cases. No one compartment depends on any other, and if you remove one or several cars, the others are not at all affected.

Thus, our allegiance is to Christ alone, who is our life; not merely an aspect to our life! His Light and Life must shine and be lived out in every ‘spoke’ of our lives!


Here we shall end this, the second part of this three part series on FOUNDATIONS: Holy or Profane

Monday, February 3, 2014

FOUNDATIONS – HOLY or PROFANE: PART 1 of 3

Any building requires a firm foundation in order to stand securely and endure. Foundations have certain requirements: they must be level and strong; they must have integrity and solidity. Foundations must have established parameters that are clearly defined and stable. If any foundation lacks these things, anything built upon it will be subject to deterioration and will be in danger of eventual collapse.

Building inspectors examine constructions for these very qualities and if any of these factors do not measure up to standards, re-construction is ordered; otherwise the building will not receive approval from these authorities. If repairs are not effected, the building will then be demolished.

DUAL DOMAINS: DIVINE and DIABOLICAL

Just as there are really only two kingdoms in this world of ours, that is, the kingdom of God and Light and the kingdom of Satan and Darkness, each of these has a foundation upon which they are built. We understand that the kingdom of Darkness is established upon a faulty foundation (the Supreme Lie being that Lucifer will “be like the most High”. See IS. 14:14) and is doomed for destruction, but we must also consider our own lives and what foundation of these two, we are building upon. We must choose wisely, not poorly.
Even if we are established upon the foundation of the Kingdom of God, and yet still have facets of our lives remaining on that faulty foundation of the kingdom of Darkness, such elements will fall into ruin.

Is it not better to be wholly and completely founded on the foundation that will not fail?

We turn now to the book of Isaiah and ponder what it has to say about all of this:

ISAIAH 28: 16
16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

The LORD is the One Who is establishing this foundation (which is truly, Himself – “our Rock of salvation” PS. 95:1) upon the Earth. This is the same foundation that represents the authority of God as Absolute Ruler of all His creation and resides overtly in the domain of Heaven where angelic beings have worshipped and served Him devotedly since ages past, and saints who have gone before do likewise.

This authority was singular and unquestioned upon this Earth when God initially created all things, culminating in the climatic creation of Adam, and his wife, Eve. It wasn’t until Satan a.k.a. “the serpent” (GEN. 3:1) was allowed into the Garden of Eden to propose an alternative that this second foundation was established in the Earth. Prior to that point, this alternate foundation had been established in the newly founded
kingdom of Darkness as described in ISAIAH 14:12-19 and EZEKIEL 28:12-19.

Because of the fall of Lucifer, his persuasion of his fellow angels numbering one third of the total angelic population in following him in his rebellion against God (REV. 12:4) and his subsequent infiltration and corruption of the human race, the Earth and the Heavens have been corrupted. For this reason there will come a day that both will be destroyed (2 PET. 3:10, 12) and a New Earth and New Heavens will be created (IS. 65:16-17; 66:22; 2 PET. 3:13; REV. 21:1), where evil and sin will be non-existent (IS. 11:9; HAB 2:14).

CHRIST The CORNERSTONE, CUT WITHOUT HANDS

Getting back to our original reference in Isaiah, there is this foundation stone spoken of; “a tried Stone” – it has been tested and proven to be a proper cornerstone. Cornerstones were essential in the construct of a building, establishing the right angle (90’) which in turn will determine the other three angles of the building.

Scripture speaks repeatedly of the Cornerstone:

PSALMS 118:22; JER 51:26; MATT
21:42 (also MK 12:10 and LK 20:17); ACTS 4:11; EPH 2:20; and 1 PET. 2:6-7.

Just as the foundation is vital to any building, the corner stone is vital to the foundation; thus we rightly conclude that the foundation of the kingdom of God depends upon that which everything and everyone within that kingdom rests, which is Jesus Christ – the corner stone of our faith.

Jesus Christ was certainly tried by His enemies (MK. 14:56, 59; JN. 8:46; 14:30; as well as by the Holy Law of God (MT. 5:17-18; GAL. 4:4), and found to be a good and proper corner stone, entirely trustworthy and possessing the utmost of integrity in holiness and righteousness, being wholly without sin (1 PET. 1:9; HEB. 4:15).
Therefore Christ is the King in the coming kingdom of Heaven, and He is the rule and measure of all the saints who by the Spirit of grace endeavor to emulate His Holy character in both word and deed (2 TIM. 2:19).
He is the standard of the ‘culture of God’s domain’ and the ruling authority of the coming government which shall preside over all the Earth. Those that reject Him, as religious leaders did, and still do today, will themselves be denied entry into God’s Kingdom.


ZION’S GATES – The GOVERNMENT of GOD

The idea of Zion incorporates more than merely a mountain* in the region of Jerusalem; it is a representation of the Gospel (by which we enter into the Kingdom, via the spiritual rebirth; JN. 3:3-5) as well as the Government by and of God (that is the outward manifestation of the Kingdom). The phrase, “the city of David” also connotes this idea of the Government of God (1 KINGS 8:16; JER. 17:25; LK. 2:11), Christ Jesus Himself being ‘the greater David’ who shall rule over Jacob (Israel) forever (LK. 1:31-33) and assume the throne of His father and predecessor, King David.

*Quite often when mountains are mentioned, they are symbolic of a kingdom, and most especially when “the mountain of the LORD” is spoken of, this represents the government of God.

ISAIAH 2:2-3
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above thehills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of theLord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

DANIEL 2:34-35
34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

(See also PS. 48:1; 133:3; IS. 2:3; 11:9; 25:6; 35:1-10; 51:1-16; JL 2:1; 3:17; MIC. 4:2; ZECH. 8:3; note: these are not exhaustive references and a comprehensive study on “Zion” would prove greatly beneficial to the Bible student!)

We shall end here and continue next time on the topic of ZION – the Government of God.