Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rob Bell on Hell

I just read this exceprt from Heaven and Hell... Wanted to offer my thoughts.

"Those are powerful metaphors. But we don't live any longer in a culture in which people offer animal sacrifices to the gods. We have to understand that the first Christian writers were doing "brilliant, creative work" by putting "the Jesus story in language their listeners would understand."

The metaphors Bell is talking about have to do with the fact the Jesus' death satisfied God's wrath towards sin. Hebrews is full of these metaphors.

 11But when Christ appeared as a high priest(U) of the good things that have come,[e] then through(V) the greater and more perfect tent ((W) not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he(X) entered(Y) once for all into the holy places, not by means of(Z) the blood of goats and calves but(AA) by means of his own blood,(AB) thus securing an eternal redemption. Hebrews 9.

12But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he(Q) sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time(R) until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering(S) he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10

It bothers me that Bell would say these authors were merely putting the Jesus story in a language that their listeners would understand. In these verses God is telling us that our sin is serious and that without the shedding of blood there is no remission or forgiveness of sin. It's not just a metaphor. It's how a holy, loving God ordered things to be.

Bell writes that Jesus' death was an inspiring example of self-sacrifice and should be our motivation for living the same type of life.  I don't hear anything in Bell's theology about the atoning work behind Jesus' death. Jesus didn't die just so we would have an example, but so that God's wrath towards us would be satisfied. It's the only way we find justification.

And actually people still do offer blood sacrifices to the gods. Check out tribes in Africa. I've personally met a guy who grew up sacrificing chickens for his family that the gods might be pleased and satisfied. It's not an ancient, outdated idea. It's written deep in our hearts, we've offended a holy God and something must be done.

The beautiful thing about Christianity is that God did that thing that must be done by becoming incarnate and sacrificing himself. 

Because Bell downplays the wrath of God, it's not surprise to me that he downplays the reality of hell.

In my place, Jesus died
The spotless lamb, laid down his life
The wrath of God was satisfied
In my place, Jesus died.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What about people before Jesus?

Studying Genesis 15 and it reminded me of a question students often ask: "How did the people who lived before Jesus get saved? How did they go to heaven?"

The logic is: If we are saved by believing (faith in) Jesus Christ (his birth, life, death, and resurrection), how did people who lived before Jesus believe in him and what he did? It's like saying to a track runner, "I want you to win this race, but you can't start until everyone else is finished." Doesn't seem fair.

But we know heroes of the faith like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jacob are in heaven...somehow they got there. But how?

The answer isn't as complicated as one might think.

God's way of saving people has never changed. It is the same for those who lived before Christ and those who lived after Christ.

Let's look at Genesis 15:6 to get our proof.

"Abram (Abraham) believed the LORD and He credited it to him as righteousness."

Faith is the answer. It was Abram's faith that saved him. Abram found favor (grace) in the eyes of the LORD and was given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2.8)

Okay, so faith saves in the Old Testament, just like in the new. But faith in what? Faith has to have an object, something it points to, falls on, and rests in.

I would say that my faith rests in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That by grace through faith, his work of righteousness has been imputed (attributed) to me and therefore I have been declared righteous despite my sin. I look back to what Christ did. To the One who has come.

Abram looked forward, ahead to the promise of the One to come-and that is what saved him. Hebrews 11 says that Abram was living by faith when he died. That he did not recieve the things promised, but only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

Read what Romans 4 says about Abrams belief (faith):

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness."But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Faith has always saved. Before and after Jesus.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Did God really say..." Lessons Learned from Genesis 3

Studying Genesis 3 today. A few observations:
  • Satan, our adversary, is crafty. Ezekiel 28 says he is the wisest of all God's created beings, "the model of perfection, full of wisdom. He is sly and subtle. He tempts Eve not by bringing into question God's existence, but by challenging His goodness. Satan tempts many of us by trying to persuade us either that God is unfair; denying us something, or that He is unjust; withholding some good that is due us.
    • The key to resisting his schemes then is to hold onto God's truthfulness and trustworthiness. Eve was a perfect example of how we fail at this. In Matthew 4, Jesus is a perfect example of how to fight off Satan's schemes with the truth of God (His Word and promises to us)
    • The most dangerous lie is the one that contains some truth. "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..." "...and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked."
  • Sin looks satisfying. The fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desired to make one wise. If it's too tasty, too pretty, and too cautious. Remember that God is for your joy! Psalm 16.17 says that in His presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore! Don't settle for Satan's sloppy seconds. His pleasure comes with a price.
  • Sin separates. It separates people (Adam and Eve start blaming each other). It separates self (they feel shame and guilt). And it separates us from our Heavenly Father (they hide from God)
  • GOD SAVES! It is God who comes looking for Adam and Eve. It is God who provides adequate clothing to cover their shame. It is God who promises to crush the adversary who tempted our first parents. Despite our rebellion and desire to steal His glory, He pursues, provides protection, and promises salvation. God is good.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creation: Fact or Myth

I love the creation story. I hate when it comes under attack. Guys too smart for their own good, like to use the brains that God gave them to try and disprove Him and His beautiful, majestic work in creation. I'll admit, there are moments when their arguments and theories threaten my faith and  I can feel the sting of their arrows. But I know deep in my soul that God made everything. I can't look at a sunrise or sunset and not think of Him. It's impossible for me to drive through the snow-covered Rockies and not dwell on Him.

That's why I love coming across books and articles that cement my faith in the creation account told in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis Unbound, is one of those books. It has changed the way I read these two chapters and those arrows from Evolutionists and others who argue that creation is a myth lose their sting. Reading Genesis 1 through this lens resolves the apparent conflict between science and the Bible.

Creation in One Verse

Here is the big shift:

Read Genesis 1.1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Ten words in the English, seven in the Hebrew. This verse is packed! This is the creation account. Let's break it down:
  • In the beginning..."at some point during an unspecified period of time"
  • God created..."God brought into existence"
  • the heavens and the earth..."everything" (don't think literal heaven and earth, think top to bottom)
So in sum, Genesis 1.1 refers to the creation of everything (top to bottom, head to toe) at some unspecified point in the past during some unspecified period of time. It could have been 4 billion years ago; it could have been 4 thousand years ago. It could have taken God one year or one billion years to reach a final product. The text just doesn't say. Is the earth old like scientist argue? Possibly. Is it young like biblical literalist argue? Possibly. Either could be right. The Bible leaves room for both.

What About the 7 Days?

Okay, so what about verse 2 and following. The seven-day creation account? What do we do with the Sunday School felt-board retelling of God making different elements of creation during each day?

These seven days do not refer to the creation of the universe, heavens, and planet earth. Narrow in your focus. The seven day creation account speaks of a time after the creation of the universe when God prepared a specific piece of real-estate for Adam and Eve: His image-bearers. With this in mind, go back and read through Genesis 1.2-31. Where it says earth, don't think planet Earth, think land. Where it says heaven don't think outerspace, think sky. In verse 2 where it says "earth was formless and void" don't picture a huge planet of mud. Think a piece of real-estate that is unihabitable or wilderness. It's the same phrase Moses uses to describe the wilderness in which he wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Now can you see how the seven days focus in on an area that God was preparing for man.

Falling into Place

When I had all of creation in mind during the seven day account, certain parts didn't settle. Like where did the light come from on day one if God didn't make the sun, moon, and stars until day four? Well, if you read Genesis in this light of what we just discussed, it all fits together nicely. God created everything, including the Sun in Genesis 1.1. On day one of the creation story, God causes the Sun to rise over the land He is preparing. Verse 2 says it was dark over the land so in verse 3 when God says let there be light...BOOM! Sunrise. On day four He when it says God made two great lights, the word there isn't create. It is made. Think made as in you made your bed this morning. Did you create a bed this morning where there was no bed? No, you prepared or fixed your bed. When it says God made the Sun and the Moon, He is preparing them, fixing them to rule the day and the night so that the man and the woman can have guides for days and seasons. Each day, God does something to this piece of land to get it ready and habitable for man. He pulls together dry land, creates Seas, fills the land with animals and plants, and puts fish in the water and birds in the air. It goes from an uninhabitable wilderness to a flourishing, prime piece of property.

This is just one example of how things start to fall into place when you think of Genesis through this lens. I could keep going, but I don't want to spoil all the fun for you. Hope this helps and fans the flames of your faith.

And God saw that it was good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yule-tide Tunes

Had to share a few of my favorite holiday albums. I never listened to much Christmas music...until I stumbled upon these bad boys.

Christmas Remixed

Christmas Remixed Vol 2

Merry Mixmas


Thursday, December 16, 2010

No Doubt-More Sure Than a Sign

I want faith like Paul and Peter. If Jesus told me to step out of boat, I want to say that I would. I mean these great men of the faith lived and died with gospel running through their veins. And when I have days (which are sadly more often than not) that are plagued with doubts and petty concerns, days when my thoughts aren't consumed with the things of God, I try to justify it by telling myself that guys like Peter and Paul had personal encounters with Christ and actually heard the audible voice of God the Father. I feel better for a moment, then the Holy Spirit hits me with a verse like 1 Peter 19.

Peter's talking about his moment on the mountain when Jesus leads them up to be eyewitnesses to his transfiguration. They watch as Jesus changes physically before them, revealing all of his glory. His  face shining like the sun and his clothes turning as white as light. Boom...then Moses and Elijah crash the mountain top party. "Oh, hi Mr Moses. Hi Mr. Elijah, the prophet who rode to heaven in a flaming chariot. Glad ya'll could leave the afterlife and join us." And if Peter, James, and John hadn't seen enough and peed their pants by then...God the Father rolls in like a cloud and speaks audibly. "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." That's finally what did it for the three. They cover their faces, fall to the ground, and assume the tornado disaster drill position. Jesus touches them, says it's okay, and when they look back up, the party had died. Only Jesus in his non "shining like the Twilight guy" form remained.

Peter is referring and retelling this almost unfathomable experience in the first chapter of his second letter when he makes this statement:

"...we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts..."

More sure? Peter, the guy who saw all of this is pointing us to something more sure: the recorded words of the prophets and apostles. The B-I-B-L-E. I let it collect way too much dust on my night stand. May we pay more attention to them as Peter commands. And as we do, may the Scriptures fuel our faith, settle our doubts, and increase our affections for Jesus.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jonathan Edwards had the hots for his wife.

Check out this paragraph found on the inside cover of one of Edward's grammar books. It's about a girl he had his eye on and eventually married. Apparently she captured his attention much more than his English class.

"They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is loved of that Great Being (God), who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fillers her mid with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested Himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure...she loves to be alone, walking in fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her."

Her name was Sarah Pierrepont. He was probably nineteen or twenty when he wrote this and they were married about 5 years later on July 28, 1727. She was seventeen. He was twenty-four.

Fellas, Edwards was a godly man. He was attracted to a godly woman. Ladies, you want a godly man? Seems they are drawn to godly women. Be one.