"If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord's body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food?"1
I have noticed over the years that Ashland is rather laissez faire when it comes to confronting sin and calling sinners to repentance. While the cry of almost all of our culture is TOLRANCE!, I can't help but see a shyness within our community in particular when sin is publicly evident.
I have often thought that this may likely be due to the heavy anabaptist population that is common to Ashland. With this church tradition comes the associated beliefs in pacifism (or nonresistanc, as they sometimes prefer to call it).
It goes like this: If you are not willing to stand against evil with a gun, what should make you willing to fight with the sword(of the Spirit? Satan rears his ugly face in the onslaught of dictators just as much as he does in parishioners and local townspeople. If you cannot consciously oppose the one, how can you to the other?
In either case evil will be victorious because there is no proper sense of defending one's territory and protecting those who are at risk of being scourged by the terrors of the evil one.
The pacifist says, "I cannot oppose you because that would be a form of resistance." So evil marches on unopposed.
With the breakdown of faith and family has come a breakdown of the marriage rite. People basically equate shacking up with marriage. Many see a wedding ceremony as superfluous.
It is true that you don't need a fancy dancy wedding with all the hoopla. (I've encouraged people away from such things as the extravagance is just as unbiblical). But is there good reason for a wedding and official act of wedding?
There is no exact verse that you can go to to say weddings are mandated by God. That's because a wedding ceremony is something you glean more from the implications of Scripture rather than a specific proof text.
In the bible we do see that God required a certificate of divorce when a marriage was dissolved. Such, of course, implies that there is a formalized certification of marriage.
The nature of the vow is also something you have to understand. The vow is a serious one. Historically we have talked about the "solemnization of marriage." The grave nature of it necessitates witnesses and formal verbal expression. You can sort of compare it to a vow by a jury or court witness. (It has implications for church membership too, but a lot of churches don't have formal profession of faith or membership vows).
In sum, the ceremony is a way of indicating before God and man that you promise and covenant to be faithful to one another and that severing this relationship is radically evil.
You might also see the wedding in Cana as another text to think about. Jesus' attendance by way of implication seems to indicate that he countenanced the wedding ceremony.
If anything you can say that the wedding is at least a way of celebrating a beautiful relationship The Lord has brought together. Thus the whole water into wine thing.
There is also the issue of headship. A woman is subject to her father until she is married. Then she comes under her husband's authority. Thus she needs her father's permission and guidance in marriage. There is that small but very important part of the ceremony where the father "gives her away." This signifies the fact that he agrees with this decision (and therefore is partially responsible for it!).
We should also remember that marriage is not just religious in nature. It is a civil institution too. As the basic building block of society (Gen. 2) the family is integral to the state. That is why there are always fights to define it and regulate it (just look at the homosexual push today). Because the state has an interest in marriagethere is a need for official recognition.
Again, such does not imply a whole lot of hoopla. Running of to Vegas or simply going before a justice of the peace is just as legit (though lacking the divine element that Christianity would prefer).
There are such things as common law marriages where two people live together for so long that they are considered married. These vary from state to state and are sort of a cheap way around true marriage and therefore not to be commended.
These, however, ought to serve as a few reasons why a man and a woman should make every attempt to be wed and not just think that their agreement to live together is sufficient grounds for their relationship.
I just posted the first article in a series I'm going to be doing on expository preaching over at the Providence site. This one simply introduces expository preaching and topical preaching.
If there is one thing we are serious about, it is articulating Scripture in a clear and biblically sound way. We believe that expository preaching encapsulates this goal best. You can learn why by staying tuned in to this series.
Had another great conversation with my neighborhood Mormons. I'm surprised that they are still walking down my street as I stop them (sometimes going out of my way to do so) and talk to them.
My tactic is to challenge them to think about who has the greater god, me or them. I ask them, "Where is your god?" This is a bit of a trick question for them because they don't ultimately know where it is. Their god(s), being confined to a body, can only be in one place at a time. So they assume that their god is in heaven.
In any respect, after their answer I say, "My God is everywhere! Don't you think that He is the greater God?" (Just so you know, I haven't had anyone say, "Why yes. He is.").
Having done that with this group of Mormons before, I asked them if they had thought about the Greater God. He said that they were not interested in him. I asked, "You are okay with a lesser god?"
After this I started talking to them about Col. 1:17, where it says, "In him all things consist (i.e. hold together)." We talked about what that means. I illustrated it by saying that if you have a glass of ice water, the water consists in a cup (i.e. it is held together by the glass). If you were to remove the glass, the water would lose its shape and no longer consist or be held together. They agreed that this was a good illustration.
I then asked how their god, being only in heaven, can be here now holding us together. It is impossible! Such a belief requires a God who is everywhere. If god were only in heaven, then we would not be held together. We would be like the water without a container.
They tried to say that their god did it through the Holy Spirit. I pointed out though that the passage says, "In him all things consist," not "In the Holy Spirit."
Both of the Mormons recognized that I was right. However, neither would admit it. I just pray that they would come to see that a puny god, such as theirs, is not a god who will serve them well or do justice
I just got done printing and folding the materials that we at Providence Church are going to distribute next week at the Ashland Balloonfest. There are a total of 400 gospel tracts and sermon CD's. It isn't much in comparison to the thousands who will be in attendance for the event, but it is enough for the Lord to use mightily.
The tracts include "Is God that Picky?" and "Are you a good person?"
Pray that the Lord will cause many to read/listen to these and turn to Christ. Ask too, that the Lord will give wing to His Word and do far more than we can ask or imagine!
From time to time I'm asked about books that are "must read's". Just today I was asked what I would recommend for a high school home education reading list. There may even be an interest in doing a homeschool class on one/some of them. So, if you are a homeschooler, give it a think.
And now, without any further adieu...the list that I fully endorse:
This is a new tract I wrote up and making available. Download and use it if you'd like!
When my wife and children go away for the week, I live the stereotypical bachelor’s life. As a result, the house doesn’t typically have that “woman’s touch” that makes it so warm and inviting.
On one of these occasions a friend of mine came over to hang out. When we entered the house I did a quick breeze through to clean up the worst of the mess. I didn’t worry that my tidying up left much to be desired. I knew my friend would not be concerned about the smaller things still scattered around the room.
Many people view their life with God in the same way. We think that God will accept us as long as our lives are somewhat tidy. We know those whose sins are flagrant and scandalous deserve to go to hell. However, God isn’t so picky as to worry about some of the smaller sins that clutter up our lives… right?
Wrong. The Bible makes it quite clear God hates even the smallest infraction of his law, and he will not overlook any of them.
Consider the very first sin. Adam and Eve were given only one stipulation. God commanded them not to eat of the fruit of one particular tree in the midst of the vast paradise spread before them. Despite the prohibition they ate the fruit, and the consequences were disastrous. They were expelled from God’s presence, given over to live a life of misery, and condemned to die.
All that for eating one little piece of fruit!
The Bible makes it clear that God takes sin very seriously. That’s because God is infinitely holy. Since he is infinitely holy, even the slightest transgression of his law is infinitely evil and deserves an infinite punishment.
Some will object and say, “But God is a God of love! How can he be that austere?” It is true, God is love. However, we must always remember that God loves his own honor first and foremost. So whatever offends God must be dealt with in such a manner so as to defend his honor.
That obviously puts us in a dilemma. If God really is that picky, it means we are all liable to his wrath and curse. Even if we had only one “little” sin for which we were accountable (and, of course, we have many), O what a dreadful punishment that would be!
The good news is that there is a remedy for our predicament. The seriousness of sin is dealt with in the cross of Jesus Christ. When Christ went to the cross, he died a painful and shameful death to atone for all sin, be it great or “small.” That means he died in our place. He took the curse that was due to us for our sin and paid the penalty in full.
Moreover, Jesus’ life was the tidy life God requires. He never sinned once in all the days he lived. As a result, his life can make us acceptable to God.
In essence, Jesus makes it possible for sinners of all sorts to be right with a picky God. And if you wish to be delivered from the sins that still clutter up your life, all you have to do is this: acknowledge that your life does not measure up to God’s perfect standard and turn to Jesus. When you do that, the life Jesus lived will be transferred to you, and all your sin will be wiped away. You will never need to fear standing before God because he will not count one of your sins against you. When he looks upon you, he will only see the perfect life of Christ.
If you would like to receive Jesus as your Savior, you can use this prayer as a guide:
Dear God, I might not be a murderer or a horrendous villain in the world’s eyes, but I do know that I am a sinner. As such I know too that I deserve to be punished. But I am sorry for the things I’ve done. I pray that you would forgive me. Thank you for sending Jesus to live and die for me. I know that only he could live the life I could not, and I want him to be my savior.
When I played basketball as a kid my coach always said, “The best offense is a good defense.” We emphasized defense, because, if the other team couldn’t score, we would win.
When it comes to apologetics we say just the opposite. Our motto is that “The best defense is a good offense.” Yet, while our mottos might be reversed, the implications are the same: If the other team (i.e. the unbeliever) cannot score, we win.
The task of Christian apologetics is to defend the faith by going on the offense. This is what is meant in Proverbs 26:5 when it says, “Rebuke a fool according to his folly.” Our job as Christians is to rebuke the unbeliever by means of exposing the foolery of his own worldview. We do so by entering into their system of thought in order to critique it. As we do so we press it to its logical conclusion and reveal how it is completely absurd.
In sum, we defend the faith by demolishing unbelief.
Here’s another way to think about the nature of presuppositional apologetics:
When I was younger, I used to play a game called “King of the Mountain.” We would begin by having everyone stand at the bottom of a large snow pile. When we said go, we would all scramble to the top as fast as we could. When we got there, we would begin to push and shove one another. The goal of the game was to be the only one who stands a-top of the snow pile (i.e. the “king”). But that meant that the king had to knock everyone else down off the hill when they charged. The king, then, was the one who was able to defend his territory by attacking the attackers. His kingship was due to his ability to disable his opponents and reveal their complete weakness and inability to stand.
In the same way, we defend the faith by showing the inability of other faiths to stand. We defend the legitimacy of the Christian faith by showing that it is the only one that is logically coherent. In sum, we reveal Christ to be the King of the Mountain by attacking the false faiths, exposing how they are foolish and have no ground upon which to stand.
Let’s pause here and consider an example: Suppose you are talking with someone and they say, “I don’t believe God exists.” You might ask them why they believe this. He may answer, “Because there is no evidence for God.” We could offer some traditional evidences for the faith, but (as we saw last time), it is likely that he won’t listen to these arguments. It would be better to attack this claim and show how absurd it is in his own worldview. It would be easy as sayng this,
“You are making a certain claim that there is no God. How do you know there is no evidence for God? Have you searched the entire universe? There very well may be evidence that you simply have not found.”
In saying this we have just exposed the weakness of his argument. He has made a categorically absolute statement that there is no proof. However, he cannot be sure because he has not examined all possible means of gaining evidence. There very well may be proof that he does not know of and simply has not found. If he wishes to be “scientific” he must abide by the rules of his method!
So far, we have exposed that his attack is invalid (he can only postulate that there is no God). We can now begin to press his worldview to expose how it cannot even account for the rationality he claims. We may say something like this,
“You are assuming that everything has to be proven by means of scientific investigation (i.e. by your ability to see, taste, touch, smell). Can you prove the scientific method by means of the scientific method?
The answer is obviously no. His basis for life (the scientific method) has no authoritative grounding. If the truth were told there are in fact many other things that cannot be proven by sensory experience, such as laws of logic, thoughts, dreams, etc.
So we continue to press his worlview:
“You are also assuming your senss of sight, taste, & touch are reliable. But it must be asked, ‘How do you know that they are reliable?’ How can you be sure that what you see is actually there and not a figment of your imagination? Just because I think I am holding a pencil, doesn’t mean that it could not be a knife. Just because I don’t see any blood, doesn’t mean there isn’t any. My sense of perception may not be accurate.
“The fact of the matter is, sensory perception cannot be trusted in and of itself. There has to be a God who has made the eye, the hand, and the nose to validate the authenticity of sensory experience.
“So, in the end, the very thing you claim (i.e. There is no evidence for God) is not only untrue (there may very well may be evidence that you do not know of), but the possibility of using our senses to verify that evidence proves that God must exist. The very claim you make necessarily implies the very God you deny.”
We’ve now disarmed our proud fool, stripped him of his ability to argue, and given him reason to consider the need for the Christian faith. Or, to put it another way, Christ remains king of the mountain and the unbeliever’s worldview has been cast down and dashed to pieces.
It is admitted that the unbeliever may still wish to remain in his unbelief. Just because we have exposed his folly, doesn’t mean he will automatically leave it. However, we have properly defended the faith to this point.
It’s the “You-Don’t-Have-to-Wait-for-Objections” Kind of Apologetics
We may even take our apologetics one step further. We do not have to wait for anyone to object to our faith to engage in apologetics. When we understand presuppositional apologetics, we will understand that we can engage the unbeliever at any time. Indeed, we may press the gospel by actively opening the door for it by engaging the unbeliever and calling him to account for his worldview.
Think of it this way: The Bible says that “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3). In other words, our God is the author of all creation and the fountain of truth. Therefore it is legitimate to say that “All truth is God’s truth.” More specifically, anyone who has truth, must take it from this God!
Since the unbeliever lives in this world he must hold to God’s truth to some degree in order to operate in this world. The unbeliever, then, is guilty of “stealing” truth. He takes from the Christian worldview the truth that he has. Though he uses this truth, his worldview cannot account for that truth because it is not built on the revelation of God in Scripture.
So, wherever he makes use of truth, we may engage in presuppositional apologetics to expose how he does not have any grounds for making these claims to truth.
Here’s a concrete example: I was once talking with my neighbor about the girls my wife and I have adopted. As a man who travels to some rundown neighborhoods, he confessed to me that he is so glad that we have adopted and given these girls good homes. He went on and on about how “good” it was.
We agree that adoption is good. That is to say, adoption has a moral dimension, and it is a “good” and “decent” thing to give a child a good home. It is “not good” to be in a broken home. Yet how can he, and unbeliever, account for these moral claims? Morality demands an absolute standard by which to judge good and evil. What standard does he have by which to measure “goodness”? We might ask him, “How do you know that adoption is good?” His response would be something to the effect of “because I think it is.” We might then ask, “How do you know you are right? What makes your personal inclination a valid measurement of what is good?”
If he is honest (and it is likely that he won’t be), he will have to admit that his standard for judging morality is invalid. We could just as easily say, “Adoption is evil” if it is up to our personal inclination. We know that adoption is good though. But why? It is because God has given us a standard for measuring what is good.
We have now just broken down my neighbor’s worldview, shown it to be absurd, and opened a door for the gospel. In just a matter of minutes we have shown him how his own worldview cannot account for morality (and is therefore absurd), and provided him a reason to acknowledge Christ as Lord.
All this is to say that it is only the Christian presuppositions that are able to give a coherent basis for reality, knowledge, and morality. Truth is God’s, and the unbeliever has no right to it apart from Christ.
Clarification: Do not misunderstand this: I am not saying that unbelievers do not have truth or morals. They most certainly do. It is part of the common grace that God grants them. All unbelievers have some degree of truth. What we want to do is show them that it is impossible to account for that truth in their system. In other words, we want them to confess the Source of that truth and acknowledge His standard for truth.
I once had a woman make this mistake. She said that we Christians don’t think atheists have morals. I corrected her by saying that such wasn’t true in the least. We do believe atheists have morals. However, we don’t believe that they could account for those morals according to their system of unbelief.
The conversation involved discussion of her love to celebrate Christmas, despite her confessing being an atheist. I then explained that, if we are nothing more than cosmic dust (i.e. chance products of evolutionary change) it doesn't matter whether we eat the ham or the neighbor's child for Christmas dinner. If we are consistent atheists, one act is just as moral as the other.
How can I say this? It is because evolution does not give an absolute standard for morality. A child or a pig are essentially the same in that they are both chance products of evolution. No authoritative lawgiver has said that one or the other is wrong. Neither have they been endowed with any sort of dignity that would necessarily make such an act wrong.
The atheistic and evolutionary worldview, when critiqued by its own system, is not able to say that cannibalism is wrong. (If your life’s maxim is “survival of the fittest, one might make the case that cannibalism ought be endorsed!”)
To be sure, eating the neighbor kid should sound repulsive. It would be terrible if someone thought this was an okay thing to do. But how is it that this atheist could be repulsed by the thought of chewing on little Jenny from next door? It is because she steals from the Christian worldview. God has endowed man with a special dignity by creating man in His image. Cannibalism is forbidden (and reprehensible!) because it violates this basic glory given to man.
Again, all this is to say that all people have truth. Our question instead, revolves around how they account for that truth. What's more, we can use these opportunities as gateways for the gospel.
In every culture you have those you would consider “a low life.” These people are just about on par with vermin in the eyes of most people.
God also has his scoundrels. Chief among them is the sluggard. With stinging vehemence Proverbs 6:9 raves, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?”
No, this isn’t your mother trying to get you out of bed for school. This is God expressing his utter disdain for slothfulness.
Be clear though: The sluggard is not condemned because he sleeps. He is rebuked because he sleeps too much. He is in love with sleeping.
God made us in such a way that we become weary, so rest is a necessity. We need to sleep so that we might be properly refreshed and enabled to fulfill our God given tasks. You could say that it is part of our God given call to rest periodically.
God knows how enjoyable rest is for us. Psalm 127 talks about how God grants the pleasure of a good night’s sleep to those he loves. Moreover, God has designated a whole day for the purpose of rest. For six days we are to fulfill our regular employments. But on the Lord’s Day [Sunday] we set these aside to give our bodies a break and refresh our spirits in worship.
But as with all of God’s creation, we must remember that we can abuse our “R&R.” When our recreations intrude upon our occupations we no longer sleep to the glory of God. When sleep exceeds its rightful parameters we sin.
Of course the parameters for our rest can change and be different for each of us. If you are sick or infirm, obviously you need more rest. God has called you, at that point, to recuperate. But rest should never impinge upon our daily callings when we can rightfully execute them.
In our day the Christian virtue of diligence is becoming a rare and valuable thing. This is because we live in a pleasure loving society. People love not working.
Ask any employer what is the biggest problem they have with their employees. I bet you will find that it is having people who are late to work or who are not diligent in their work.
Recently a news cast reported that businesses in America loose a staggering amount of money each year. It wasn’t because of a market recession; it was because of a work recession.
Thousands of dollars are lost because coworkers chatter while “on the clock.” Duties are neglected as employees sit in their cubicles and surf the internet while the boss is not looking. Productivity becomes low because laborers stretch break time a few minutes longer each day. Idleness is fleecing America.
But sloth is not limited to the 9-5 job. Sloth is especially evident in our calling to godliness. We are to work out our faith with fear and trembling, but more often we fizzle out. Prayer is skipped because of the snooze button; worship is skipped because of a football game. Worship is missed (though you be in the pew) because you caught a severe case of Saturday night fever.
We must remember that every activity under heaven has its season—even rest and recreation. But pleasure should never overstep its rightful boundary.
God allows us enjoyments, but we must enjoy them in the way God wants and to the degree he wants. Then we must promptly take up our regular employments, doing them with the requisite diligence. Neglecting our daily callings in life stirs God’s indignation.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.