Thursday, April 19, 2007

There's A Little Bit of Cho Seung Hui In All Of Us

As I nation responds to the tragedy of the VA Tech shooting this past Monday, people are asking the question "how could someone do this?" I am certainly horrified, as everyone else is, by what Cho Seung Hui did on Monday in killing 33 people in cold blood. However, I don’t think I am as shocked about this as others are. Frankly, I am amazed that this stuff doesn't happen more. You see, unlike many others, I believe that human beings are essentially evil, not essentially good. Criminal profiler Pat Brown said in an interview with the Associated Press that Cho was a "psychopath." She said that because he was a psychopath he would not have responded to counseling and he was essentially destined to be a psychopath from the ages of 8-10 years old. This is the way our world including the "experts" respond to this kind of thing. Most assume that Cho is an anomaly. They believe that we are all essentially good, and yet once in a while a person gets his wires crossed and is capable of something awful like this. We want to believe that this is isolated rage and that not many could be capable of this. However, from a Christian perspective--a biblical perspective it is clear that we all have a little bit of Cho in us. In other words we are all evil at our core and capable of horrific things.

Jesus Christ Himself gave an indictment on the entire human race when he said in Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.NASB95 In other words, if you hate someone, or hold bitterness in your heart against someone, or rashly insult someone you are just as much a murderer as someone who takes away life in cold blood! Now if what Christ said is true, and it is, then we are all just as bad as Mr. Hui.

So how is it that we all don't act out our hatred and bitterness as Mr. Cho did? It is only because of God's restraining grace. God has instituted families and human government and the church to restrain sin. He has given us a moral conscience that teaches us basic right and wrong. He has revealed Himself in His creation so that we know that there is a God to be accountable to. He has revealed Himself in the person of Christ and in His Word--the Bible, so that we know His truth. God does not allow us to be as bad as we could be. Even such a horrific thing as this VA Tech shooting can be a means of God's mercy and grace if the world will stop for a moment and realize the awfulness of human sin.

Everyday we as human being don't live up to the knowledge we have. Everyday our conscience convicts us that we are not what we should be. The Bible tells us we were created to reflect the glory of God. We were made to obey Him, to please, Him and to live for Him. Sadly, most people do not live to please God for His glory. The fact is that we would all pursue a life of wickedness if it were not for the grace of God. It is the grace of God that sent Jesus, the Son of God, into the world to save the wicked human race. Jesus was born sinless and lived as we all should live. He lived to please God the Father. He fulfilled all righteousness. Then in the ultimate act of love He laid down His life for us on the cross. He took the sin of the world upon Him. We all deserve death and hell, but Christ took our punishment. He did not stay in the tomb that they laid Him in. Instead He rose from the dead just as the scriptures promised, and just as He had promised. He sent His disciples into the world to proclaim the good news that we can be forgiven of our sin and restored to God through Him and His work of righteousness and payment for our sin on the cross. The Bible tells us that if we turn away from our sin (rebellion against God) and turn to Christ as our Master and Savior we will be forgiven of our sin and be granted the very righteousness of God. We can be acceptable to God.

There is hope for the human race, but this hope is in Christ alone. There is even hope for those who the world would brand as psychopaths. God can break through to anyone with the good news of Christ and make them new persons --fit for heaven. This is the only real message of comfort for a world that asks why. The answer is because God is a God of grace who takes even the most horrific tragedy and turns it in to an opportunity for many to be saved. I am praying for comfort for all of the victims of this tragedy, and I know that true comfort will only come through Christ Jesus the Lord of all the earth. He is coming back one day and all will be made right on earth. In that day every deed and every thought will be judged. Only those who have been made righteous through Christ will avoid the wrath of God in that day. Justice will be served. Grace is being served today. Are you falling on the grace and mercy of Christ?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Minister" Preaches Easter Sermon That Denies That Christ Died For Sin!

The British paper The Sunday Telegraph reports that "The Very Rev Jeffrey John" is preaching against the traditional Christian view of the death of Christ this Easter. He calls the traditional view "repulsive" and "insane." He claims that to say that Jesus died to atone for the sins of mankind is to make God out to be a "psychopath." He doesn't like the idea of the Father pouring His wrath out on His Son. He thinks that this makes God out to be vindictive and cruel instead of loving. He reinterprets the death of Christ by saying that Christ died to "share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us."

My question to Jeffrey John is, why even call yourself a Christian? The penal substitutionary atonement of Christ is the center of the Christian faith. In other words the truth that Jesus Christ the Son of God laid down His life to pay for the sins of mankind is essential to Christianity. Without this there is no reasonable explanation for why Christ came, died, rose, ascended and is now Lord of His church. This is what happens when a pagan takes the prevailing wisdom of the world and analyzes Christianity. To say that Christ came to merely experience the worst of humanity is absurd. This would give us a picture of a weak god who feels bad for the world of humans. This kind of god has no power to save men from their sins, so he merely joins in the sorrow with them. This kind of god can offer no hope to the world. What joy would Christ have to look forward to if he is just another victim of sin? This is a cruel picture of God sending his son to the world to die!

Jesus has made it very clear why He came to earth to die. He has communicated this through His true followers through His word. The Bible is Christ's explanation for why He came to die. Perhaps if Jeffrey John would crack it open, read it, believe it, and be saved by it, he would then be able to do what a Christian minister is supposed to do: preach the gospel, instead of attacking it!

Here are a few quotes from Christ Himself that make it very clear what he was doing when He died on the cross.

Luke 24:46-47 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.NASB95

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."NASB95

Matthew 26:27-28 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.NASB95

When we understand that Jesus freely gave Himself to die for our sins in accordance with the Father's will and we understand that the Father raised Him from the dead and has exalted Him above all tings and made Him head of the church then we can understand that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2).

It is only when we understand this that we can begin to understand the future joy of heaven spoken of in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 5:1-10 I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”NASB95

Don't feel bad for Christ! He doesn't! Rejoice with Him and embrace His salvation!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How Should The Church Respond To The Exodus Of Our Youth (Pt. 8)

A friend of mine visited a church the other day and heard a sermon that was 12 minutes in length! I am told that this is fairly common in churches these days. We are constantly reminded by psychologists and other experts that people cannot sit still and listen for more then 20 minutes in our culture. Nowhere is this drum beat on more than in the area of youth ministry. Well, there are some people who aren't listening to the short attention span theory. video game makers are not listening, Hollywood is not listening, cell phone companies are not listening, professional sports organizations are not listening, coaches are not listening. But for some odd reason churches are listening. Churches are listening despite the fact that Christianity has a long tradition of long winded teachers. Moses taught the entire law to the Children of Israel on the plains of Moab! (The book of Deuteronomy) The prophets preached extended messages of repentance to wayward Israel. Ezra taught the law again to the returned exiles in Jerusalem for half a day while they stood and listened! Jesus taught the sermon on the mount and other extended discourses to multitudes of people when he was on earth. (Matthew 5-7; John 6) The book of Hebrews is one sermon! The epistles of the New Testament where read and discussed by churches in one sitting. This brings us to our 6th biblical principle that every discipleship oriented Christian ministry should follow.

6. Making disciples and instructing believers involves intensive teaching over long periods of time.

Acts 20:18-21 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.NASB95

When Paul was in Ephesus he took every opportunity he could to teach the whole counsel of God to the believers whether in public with a large group or in houses with small groups. He didn't hold back anything that was profitable. The central feature of his teaching was repentance and faith in Christ.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.NASB95

This text clearly tells us that the word of Christ should be so central to our lives that we constantly think about it, teach it to each other, and sing it to each other!

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.NASB95

This text implies that there was a sustained stream of teaching while Paul was with the Thessalonians.

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.NASB95

It was really clear what Paul, and thus Christ, wanted Timothy to do in church: read the word of God, exhort people to obey the word of God and teach people the word of God. Frankly, that takes time. 12 minutes doesn't cut it. Add to that that we are removed from the language, context and culture of scripture by thousands of years, so it takes more time now than it did then.

The good news is that people can handle it. In fact when committed believers are exposed to serious bible teaching they can’t get enough of it. We are experiencing this in our own church. The more we preach the word the more our core group of believers wants more. This includes our core group of believing teens. In fact my friend’s son who is 16 went with his dad to the service with the 12 minute sermon, and after hearing the sermon he responded to his dad by saying "is that it?"

I think a lot of teens are quietly saying the same thing in their hearts about the pop culture teen sermon devoid of substantive teaching from God's word: "Is that it?"