Drawn Away

Is it a sin to be tempted? Evidently not: Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. (He 4:15) Then again, perhaps tempted can mean different things depending on who’s being tempted, and by what.

It isn’t a sin to be tested, merely to have sinful choices presented to us. It was in this sense Christ was tempted (Mt 4:1); He certainly had many opportunities to sin, to break God’s Law (1Jn 3:4), but He never did.

But we are tempted when we’re drawn away of our own lust and enticed. (Ja 1:14) Drawn away from what? From God, from holiness, from wisdom, purity and love. We are enticed, feeling the internal pull and attraction of sin drawing us away from the light into the darkness. This isn’t Christ (Jn 14:30): God cannot be tempted in this way. (Ja 1:13) The very suggestion of sin is repulsive to Him. (Ps 45:7)

We may not feel this is sin, to be drawn away from God and enticed; we may be confident that we aren’t in sin until our lust — the unlawful desire within us — conceives, giving birth in our hearts and minds to intent and will to pursue what’s forbidden us. After all, we’re only human.

Clearly, intending to break God’s law is sin as well (Ja 1:15a); that’s  taking disobedience to a whole new level, often resulting in outwardly sinful behavior, leading ultimately to death. (15b) Considering the consequences and log-term impact of our sin when we’re feeling tempted like this is a certainly a powerful deterrent. (1Co 6:18) This is wisdom, and the fear of God. (Pr 14:16)

Yet, by definition, being enticed by a sinful choice actually is sin if being in that state necessarily violates any of God’s laws. So, we might look at it this way: Can we be loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (De 6:5), as we’re being drawn away from God? Or does being drawn away from God necessarily imply that we’re already, in some way, loving Him less than He deserves? When our soul is fully satisfied in Him (Ps 63:5-6), what can draw us away? (Ps 73:25)

When we aren’t in deep communion with God, feeding on the majesty, whenever we’re distracted, tired, bitter or wounded, that same old primal lie that God doesn’t quite satisfy, and that something else will, beckons. Lust can then draw us even farther away, our desires becoming more pronounced and powerful, because we’re not fully satisfied in God, we’re not pursuing and enjoying Him as we ought, we’re not loving Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. That’s how we give place to the devil (Ep 4:27), offering him ground to work in us all manner of wrongful desire. (Ro 7:8)

We may choose to live our lives in unfulfilled passion, exerting a brute force asceticism in denying ourselves the pleasures of sin for a season. (He 11:25) This is certainly better than giving in to our lusts, yet there must be a better way. (Ps 63:3)

Perhaps if we seek (Mt 7:7-8), we can find the life of Christ rooting out the sin nature itself (Ro 7:24-25a), bit by bit, realigning our internal affections in God (Ro 12:2), cleansing us of the great lie in all its insidious shades and nuance, until we’re joyfully esteeming the unsearchable riches of Christ greater than any earthly pleasure. (He 11:26) Perhaps then would grace reign through rightesouness in us (Ro 5:21), and the world would not be so enticing. (1Jn 2:15-16)

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Strong Delusion

In his work, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts that belief in God qualifies as a delusion: a fixed false belief which persists in light of conflicting evidence. Atheists often exude this conviction, that any belief in God is blind superstition, confident that science, logic and reason are entirely on their side.

When we’re at fault, we may find ourselves projecting our own error upon others, and then judging them mercilessly. (Rom 2:1) We find it so with many atheists, Dawkins being typical.

Just how difficult is it to prove God exists? If we’re honest with the facts, it’s relatively simple.

Consider the claim of the late Stephen Hawking, that there are only two possibilities for the origin of the universe: Either [P1] God created it ex nihilo, or [P2] The laws of physics did.

Being a committed atheist, Hawking chooses P2, positing that the laws of physics exist as creative forces independent of Nature. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

The obvious flaw in P2 is that the laws of physics actually don’t exist: they are not creative forces, merely abstract concepts describing patterns we consistently observe in Nature. So, P2 is a delusion in the proper sense of the word: a claim explicitly contrary to science.

However, Hawking is so confident in P2 that he offers no third possibility. So, in his inestimable brilliance, Hawking leaves us with a very simple choice: Deity, or Delusion. He sides with Delusion; anything but Deity, no matter how absurd. This is atheism, at its very best.

I anticipate 3 possible responses:

[R1] Hawking is no expert in this field and should not be trusted. This is easily dismissed; Hawking was an eminently reliable authority, knowing the valid options on origins and distilling them for us.

[R2] I have misrepresented Hawking’s claim. Also easily refuted with commonly available facts.

[R3] Fall back on “God of the gaps” (GOTG), and assert that P2 is a valid choice, merely one scientists can’t fully support just yet. The problem here is that GOTG is reasonable only when bridging the “gap” in question does not require contradicting all known science. Claiming we might eventually discover how something which does not exist could create everything which does exist – ex nihilo, from NOTHING — does contradict all we know from science. In this case, GOTG isn’t an argument; it’s a cop out, a refusal to consider any evidence for God at all. (Ro 1:20)

If we have already presumed there can’t be a god then we must confidently choose P2, and never P1, no matter what the data say. Though the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1), our presupposition blinds us to the obvious. This is the essence of delusion.

God will eventually send strong delusion upon all who don’t love the truth. (2Th 2:11-12) There may be thousands of poorly framed arguments for the existence of God, but this is not one of them. It only takes one to convince the honest soul. What say you: Deity or Delusion?

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Keep the Feast

God tells gentile believers in Christ to keep Passover (1Co 5:7-8), the first of seven feasts in God’s annual celebration cycle. (Ex 12:2)

Since this command was initially given to a community living quite a distance from Israel, in an era when international travel was extremely slow and perilous, and since the prescribed location for correctly celebrating Passover is in Jerusalem, and since there’s no mention of them permanently relocating, the command implies there are valid ways to observe God’s feasts imprecisely, outside the Promised Land, apart from Levitical priests and the temple. Simply ask: which parts of each feast are we still able keep in our current circumstance?

Believers scattered abroad throughout the nations can’t keep everything about these feasts exactly as prescribed, but this appears to be inconsequential in the overall scheme of things. God has embedded prophetic pictures and rich symbolism within the rituals of each feast (Col 2:17), and evidently intends to systematically edify us as we engage each other in celebrating them as well as we can.

For example, the Passover Seder has enabled Jews to celebrate Passover for centuries without the temple, a sacrificial lamb or convening in Jerusalem. It enables us to retain the spirit and overall benefit of the feast for ourselves and families as we recount our deliverance from Egypt, God’s provision of blood in the paschal lamb to deliver us from spiritual death, the bitter herbs reminding us of our being freed from bondage to sin and the world (Ro 6:22), and unleavened bread symbolic of God’s call to holiness. (1Pe 1:16)

Christ adds that the unleavened bread of Passover is symbolic of His body, and that the cup of wine traditionally taken after the meal is symbolic of His blood. (Lk 22:20) Thus, He further enhances the meaning of Passover, telling us to continue celebrating this particular feast in remembrance of Him. (19) So, Passover, which is The Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:20), is one key way in which we’re to remember Christ and what He’s done for us. (1Co 11:25)

Similarly, we can keep the feast of Firstfruits in celebrating Christ’s Resurrection (1Co 15:20), and Pentecost to celebrate harvesting souls in God’s eternal redemption plan. (Ac 2:1) It’s no surprise that Christ fulfilled all three of God’s Spring feasts in His first coming. (Mt 5:17)

The Fall feasts evidently await their fulfillment in Christ: Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles are likewise packed with precious insights into God’s Way, work, and eternal plan. There is vast wealth here, the riches of Christ, to be mined through prayerful and obedient celebration of God’s amazing feasts, even though we cannot do this perfectly.

Most all of what God calls us to enjoy in these celebrations does not require a priest or an earthly temple. As we delight in each one with what opportunity we have (Ro 7:22), we align with celestial hosts celebrating with God about the true tabernacle in Heaven. (He 8:2)

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They Could Not Believe

When we present reasonable evidence for a spiritual concept to someone who believes differently, why is it so rare for people to grow and change?

When our assumptions or reasonings are flawed, people should point this out with a carefully reasoned position, especially when we invite them to do so and listen intently to their concerns. So when people persistently reveal shallow, inconsistent, irrational reasons for unbelief this can be frustrating, until we consider the inherent nature of the carnal mind. (Ro 8:7)

Take for example the overwhelming historical evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. The proof is straightforward and unanswerably sound, yet it’s generally unconvincing to those who aren’t raised in church. It’s hard to fathom a more reliable testimony than the apostles have passed on to us. What does it take to convince people?

One might think miracles would help, but this is untrue historically: miracles never have convinced the masses. (Jn 12:37-38)) Neither has earnest, rational debate.  (Ac 6:10-11) There isn’t much left.

Evidently, our values determine what we notice, what we’re receptive to, and what we find credible. A temporal value system disvalues eternal things and obscures them, so Christ tells us to align our value system with God’s so we’ll be able to rightly value and perceive spiritual truth. (Mt 6:19-21) This is where we must begin: it’s the fear of God. (Pr 1:7)

When our eyes focus properly we’re able to see clearly (Mt 6:22), but when improper focus impairs our vision the light we’re seeing might as well be darkness. And if we’re mistaking darkness for light, thinking we can still see, we’re worse off than if we knew we were blind. (23)

Further, when we don’t love truth we open ourselves up to deception (2Th 2:10), inviting supernatural wickedness to further restrict our vision and perception. (2Co 4:4) No one imprisoned like this can overcome and believe on their own. (Jn 12:40)

Lack of love for the truth equates to love of the lie, which leads to making and receiving lies, which ultimately damns the soul. (Re 22:15) This disposition is evidenced in part by preferring Man’s praise to God’s, rendering us unable to perceive and receive the reality of His Son. (Jn 5:44)

Evidently, God must give us a love for truth and open our eyes in order for us to believe in and follow Him. (Jn 1:12-13) Without Him we’re dead, lifeless, oblivious to Him. (Ep 2:5) If we happen to find ourselves aware of Him, and of our need for Him, and if we’re willing to seek His face and submit to Him (He 11:6), this itself is the gift of God. (2Ti 2:25) If we pursue Him, He will give us the evidence we need and lead us into all truth (Mt 7:7-8), into Himself.

The blindness of the fallen nature is no excuse to be imprecise or irresponsible in our thinking, or in our efforts to reason with others. We should do our level best to present the truth as clearly and as articulately as we are able. (1Pe 3:15) Yet we must keep in mind that it isn’t the power and wisdom of our argument that will win the day, but the power of God. (1Co 2:5) He will enlighten those He chooses according to His pleasure and in His time.

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Sound Speech

God forbids us from using words improperly, saying or writing anything that’s destructive or harmful, speech which isn’t edifying. He calls this corrupt communication, and says we aren’t to tolerate it within ourselves. (Ep 4:29) What He’s looking for is sound speech which shines under the strictest moral scrutiny. (Tit 2:8a)

Sound speech is speaking the truth in love (Ep 4:15), to move the hearer to a better place, springing from wisdom, knowledge and humility, encouraging others and ourselves in a godly way. Anything else is corrupt.

For example, if we say something arrogantly, proudly or maliciously it can’t be edifying (1Pr 2:1); this isn’t sound speech. If we’re seeking someone’s harm in an unrighteous manner, speaking ill of them (Ja 4:11), this can’t be helpful: it’s corrupt. (Ep 4:31)

If we speak simply to draw attention to ourselves, to exalt to boast or commend ourselves, this isn’t edifying. (Php 2:3) It may be edifying to point out our behavior and experience as an example or encouragement (Php 3:17), or to invite souls to rejoice with us in our accomplishments (Ro 12:15), or even to describe our faults and ask for prayer (Ja 5:16), but simply drawing attention to ourselves isn’t edifying. (1Co 13:4-5)

Certainly, no lie, false accusation (1Ti 3:3), or half-truth can be edifying because it seeks to hide the light from those who ought to know it (1Jn 2:10), and encourages them to remain in darkness. Even claims which might be true should not be stated as true unless we’re certain. Silence might be wisdom when speaking certain truths would not be edifying (Jn 16:12), but we should put away lying: whenever we do speak, speak only the truth. (Ep 4:25)

Also, we shouldn’t swear as a means of assuring others we’re telling the truth; that’s the way of lying. (Ps 119:29) No gradations are permitted in the Way of truth (30), everything we express must be completely and utterly aligned with what we know to be true. A simple Yes or No is sufficient when we’re walking in truth; anything less is corrupt. (Mt 5:34-37)

And what of exclamations, expletives, cursing and profanity? If we shall give an account for every idle word (Mt 12:36), how shall explain our use of these?Some seem harmless, but are they sound speech?

Using God’s name or title as any kind of expletive or exclamation is taking His name in vain, irreverently, not as intended, a violation of the 3rd Commandment (Ex 20:7), so it is corrupt. Similarly, cursing — invoking spiritual power to harm someone — is off limits. (Ja 3:9-10)

But what about words expressing anger, frustration, annoyance, surprise or even wonder? Expletives and exclamations, is this sound speech, or corrupt communication? A good test might be, “Do I see Jesus saying this?” (1Pe 4:11) In other words, can I say it in His name, on His behalf?” (Col 3:17) Does it glorify God? (1Co 10:31) Is it the most effective and efficient way to encourage or edify another? Is there a more precise way to express what I’m feeling or thinking? Is it something I need to express, such that I’ll be negligent and unloving if I don’t?

A general rule here might be: When in doubt, don’t. (Ro 14:23) Be swift to hear, but thoughtfully precise, selective and deliberate in speech (Ja 1:19), choosing words carefully, prayerfully and intentionally. (Pr 19:10) To the degree we don’t control our tongue, even when we’re surprised and excited, our religion is empty and pointless. (26)

And what of idle conversation, words filing the air just because we’re uncomfortable with silence? If it isn’t edifying, again, it’s  not sound speech, it’s corrupt.

And finally, speech which weakens us, deprecating words designed to lower or belittle ourselves — this also is corrupt, unloving to both ourselves and others. Perhaps we’re afraid of the strength of those about us, wanting to make ourselves small so as avoid abuse or oppression, or we may be looking for sympathy, or forgiveness, or nursing a deep father wound and lack that robust, healthy self-confidence which is unashamed of God’s design and gifting within us. Whatever the root of unhealthy speech, if it isn’t grounded in the dignity and love of God, it’s corrupt, profane and vain babbling. (2T 2:16)

The overriding principle is edification: does my communication honor all people (1Pe 2:7), treating all – including myself – with love, wisdom, compassion and respect? (Col 4:5) Is God at work within and through my words, not to control and manipulate, but to empower in godliness? Am I considering others, where they are and what they need, deliberately enabling them in a right relationship with God (Col 4:5-6), laying a good foundation against the time to come? (Mt 12:37)

This is the high calling (Php 3:14), for sure. I count myself to have apprehended (13) and press forward toward the mark. To master the tongue in sound speech and not offend is to be mature, able to properly discipline the entire body.  (Ja 3:2)

The ideal in Christ is sound speech that can’t be condemned, so when the adversaries come to accuse, they’ll have nothing to say (Tit 2:8), and then to hear God will say, “Well done!” (1Co 4:5)

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