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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Lying)

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2021 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a HOPE! (Part 8 Final)

I don’t agree with Karl Barth on much, but his question — “Is it true? Is the Christian faith true?” is essential to biblical Christianity. We’ve seen that certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true. For example, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. Second, we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Third, if the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Fourth, we agreed that we desperately need the people of God, the church. Our fifth conclusion was that we can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We have a theodicy which helps us understand evil and suffering.

Let’s look at a sixth — and final — conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be biblically hopeful about the future because our God is sovereign. Someone has posted the following on Facebook —

I think that’s a terrific way of thinking about the Christian life! Despite life’s challenges, the follower of Jesus is, in a sense, neither a pessimist nor an optimist. He or she is a realist who is eternally grateful that his cup “runneth over”!
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%We have an eternal hope that God will wrap up history, exercise righteous judgment, reward the godly, forever separate the ungodly from His kingdom, and will usher us into an eternity of worshiping and serving our blessed Savior! There is no greater hope, is there?

What might be some characteristics of one who is biblically hopeful? Several occur to me: (1) We will not overestimate man’s abilities to solve his own problems. We will care about our world and cooperate to alleviate man’s suffering, but will recognize that only the Lord can meet a person’s deepest needs;
(2) We will cling tightly to the truths of Scripture and allow its worldview to be our worldview. This means identifying and rejecting the “wisdom of the world” and being determined to stand with God’s people, even when they are suffering;
(3) We will affirm with the Apostle Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) What’s the “them” in that text? Logically, the “them” refers to our troubles, our outwardly “wasting away” (v. 16)

Today’s Challenge: Do a bit of a word study of the term “hope” in the Scriptures. What are several truths you can share with those who read this blog?


 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have JOY! (Part 7)

I don’t agree with Karl Barth on much, but his question — “Is it true? Is the Christian faith true?” is essential to biblical Christianity. We’ve seen that certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true, for example, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. Second, we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Third, if the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Fourth, we agreed that we desperately need the people of God, the church. Our fifth conclusion was that we can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We have a theodicy which helps us understand evil and suffering.

Let’s look at a sixth conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be supernaturally joyful despite the challenges of this fallen universe. I love the statement by the preacher who said that Christians owe it to the world to be supernaturally JOYFUL! Yes, we do! And we owe it to the Lord of joy! The epistle of Philippians emphasizes the issue of JOY in spite of suffering.

2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Your present troubles may not see “light” and “momentary,” but they are compared to what our Savior suffered on our behalf. We are to be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

The follower of Jesus recognizes the tragedy of sin, the effects of the cosmic fall, the sadness of unbelief, but he or she must keep in mind what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 14 — “for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

Today’s Challenge: Would you describe yourself as full of joy in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not? What are some joy-killers that can drag down the believer and keep him or her from saying “Whoopee!”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a THEODICY! (Part 6)

This profound question raised by Karl Barth is fundamental to biblical Christianity. Certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true, such as we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We’ve also seen that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. If the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. We looked at a fourth conclusion which was we desperately need the people of God, the church.

Let’s look at a fifth conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. Biblical Christianity affirms the reality of suffering. But it also affirms the truth of the goodness of God. Putting those two truths together — which many worldviews deny — is called a theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality).

The “thorns” in our world come in many different varieties. There are self-inflicted thorns; pains produced by others; brokenness inherent in our fallen world. Some thorns are given directly by God (one thinks of 2 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”); others sovereignly allowed by Him.

Biblical Christianity provides the best theodicy for it acknowledges that this world is fallen (it is not what God intended it to be), mankind is in rebellion against God, and a Savior has been provided for those who turn to Him in faith. He solves the problem of personal evil and suffering and one day will deal with the issue of cosmic brokenness.

In his very helpful book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense, Chris Tiegreen makes the following points:
(1)  He writes: “I will never understand those who believe that spiritual problems can be solved with social programs, that peace can be achieved by treaties, that prejudices can be eliminated by discussion, that rebellious youth can be corrected with heavy doses of esteem and understanding, that scars can be healed through therapy, that wrongs can be righted by litigation, and that diseases can be eliminated by research. Evil is woven into the fabric of humanity, and it’s obvious.”
(2) Philosophically, “I both know that philosophers and theologians have found the existence of evil plus the existence of God more than a little troubling. They have also found the existence of evil plus the theoretical nonexistence of God utterly depressing.”
(3) “The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that he is love, in spite of clear evidence of rampant evil and excruciating suffering in this world.”

Today’s Challenge: There so much that is helpful in Tiegreen’s book that I’ll do the following: For any of you who reads his book, I will send you one of mine free. You can choose from DocTALK, DocWALK, When Temptation Strikes, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World, and even The Other Side of the Good News! Deal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a FAMILY! (Part 5)

When he stepped into the pulpit for the first time, Karl Barth raised a profound question, didn’t he? But what conclusions should we reach IF the gospel indeed is true? We’ve seen in our study that if the gospel is TRUE, then we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor! We’ve also seen that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Thirdly, we drew the conclusion that if the gospel is true, then we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Let’s notice a fourth conclusion —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We desperately need the people of God, the church. For many the church is the great Evangelical option. “I’ll go if I have time.” “I’ll give if I can spare some loose change.” “I’ll serve if I must.” Because the good news of the gospel is true, God is creating a forgiven family — and each of us are members!

Not a one of us is perfect — but we’re growing. And we are to meet together to focus on Him and to practice the four priorities which marked the early church. We read in Acts 2 —

If we wish to be like the early Christians and to be blessed by God, we will devote ourselves to: doctrine, fellowship, worship, and prayer! Because we need somewhere to go on Sunday?! NO! Because Christ is building His Body, the Church, and we are members of it!

Today’s Challenge: Philip Yancey’s little book Church: Why Bother? raises some key questions. Why do you “bother” with church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a FINAL AUTHORITY! (Part 4)

“IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?” was the question Karl Barth anticipated as he was talking about the gospel. These posts are intended to give certain conclusions IF the gospel is true.

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, we’ve seen that we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor! We’ve also noticed that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel.

Let’s notice a third conclusion and that is —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life.

Many Christians actually hold to a number of inadequate pictures of the Bible. For some it’s like a kind of good luck charm, kind of like a rabbit’s foot (which was unlucky for the poor rabbit). For others, the idea of a holy horoscope comes to mind. They drop their finger on a random verse to give them happiness for a day. Others look at the Bible as a kind of fundamentalist fortune cookie that provides uplifting and totally innocuous sayings.

But the true nature of the Bible involves the following pictures (discussed in my book DocWALK):

So much could be said about God’s Word, the Bible. IF the gospel is true — and it is — the Jesus-follower must realize that he or she has a final authority that should not be picked up haphazardly! The Bible should be our daily source for guidance, the light we need for living wisely, the cup of cold water thrown in our face when we are stuck in sin, . . . You get the picture.

Today’s Challenge: My friend, what is the Bible for you? Meditate on the verses given above for the true nature of the Bible. And take specific steps to grow in your love of and obedience to God’s Word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a MISSION! (Part 3)

Karl Barth said that people come to church out of the expectancy that they could find the answer to the question ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?” He was talking about the gospel. And that’s what these posts are about.

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, then certain conclusions follow. We’ve looked at the conclusion that, if the gospel is true, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor!

Let’s notice a second conclusion and that is —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel.

We are not suggesting any form of persecution or marginalization of other belief systems. We are simply stating that truth is greater than error. And the errors of human religions must be compassionately but clearly engaged so that the good news about Jesus can be heard.

This is why we have MISSIONS.  We believe that people are genuinely lost and that they cannot save themselves by their own religious efforts. No one is good enough or spiritual enough to earn forgiveness from the Triune God. If we could save ourselves, then why the Cross? The Apostle Paul puts it this way:  4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10)

One of my fondest memories of teaching theology in seminary for almost twenty years was the class I created called “Eternal Destinies.” I invited (with the approval of my seminary dean) leaders from such cults as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Ba’hai, Judaism, Buddhism, Christian Science and one or two others to present a brief lecture to my class about their worldview.

You need to know that we treated our guests with dignity, but the students brought me great pride as they asked precise, insightful questions of the guests. Some of their questions were: “How do you know your spiritual authority is right?” “What view do you take on the historical Jesus?” “Will anyone ever be lost eternally?”

We need not fear other religions or worldviews. We will need to do our homework and we will need to treat others with kindness. Satan is the great deceiver and it takes work to separate truth from error.

Today’s Challenge: Do you have any friends who belong to a religion other than Christianity? Are you treating them with kindness? Do you see your mission as asking them significant questions which just might get them thinking about the true gospel?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a MESSAGE! (Part 2)

We began this series with a quote from Karl Barth who said that people come to church out of the expectancy that they could find the answer to the question ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”

If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, then certain conclusions follow. The conclusion we want to look at today is . .

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have a message for the world, a message which is both good news and bad news.

The “gospel” means good news. Is the gospel good news to you? IF the gospel is true, then it is the best news anyone could ever hear — forgiveness from the Triune God! A place in God’s family! A reason to live! A confidence about the afterlife! But the gospel isn’t only good news. [The first book I wrote is entitled The Other Side of the Good News].

What’s the bad news of the gospel? Eternal judgment. Separation from God and God’s people forever. Righteous condemnation. Eternity in hell. There is no worse news than that!

One biblical text has always gripped my attention. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 2 —

Please notice the olfactory emphasis in this text. We are an aroma. We smell. To some we smell great. To others, not so much. Our job is to “spread the aroma” of Christ everywhere.

Just a few observations:

1. We are to be aroma-spreaders . . . everywhere (v. 14).
2. This aroma is “of the knowledge of Him” (v. 14).
3. Our primary audience isn’t the human race, but God Himself. We read, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ” (v. 15).
4. There are two groups who catch our aroma: (1) “those who are being saved” and (2) “those who are perishing” (v. 15).
5. The aroma we are spreading isn’t benign. To those who are perishing we are “an aroma that brings death.” To those who are being saved we are “an aroma that brings life” (v. 16).
6. Our aromatic duty is overwhelming and should cause us to exclaim with the Apostle Paul “who is equal to such a task?” (v. 16).

Today’s Challenge:  Because the gospel is true, we have no choice as Jesus-followers but to bring the aroma of Him to the world. Everywhere. To everyone. Don’t be shocked when some turn up their spiritual noses at you or me. It comes with the package. Because the gospel is true.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . Introduction (Part 1)

Although I have great reservations about the theology of Karl Barth, I agree with what he said when he stood before a congregation for the first time in his life. He said, “Expectancy – that’s why they were there, why all of us were. At that strange, still moment just before the show starts. It is above all else expectancy that throbs in the stillness like a pulse. All those people out there in the pews, some hostile, some searching, some both at once, some young, some old. Their being there points to the event that is expected or appears to be expected or at least, if the place be dead and buried, was once expected there. . . . The event they await so expectantly is the sermon itself and which, whether they recognize it or not, they, all of them, want to find the answer, to one question beyond all other questions, which is the question, ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”

The question I want to pose in this series of posts isn’t is the gospel true, but IF IT IS TRUE, WHAT THEN? The question IS IT TRUE is, of course, fundamental and absolutely critical. As C.S. Lewis once put it, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics). A great message on “What Is the Gospel?” by D.A. Carson is found here.

But my assumption in these posts is that the gospel indeed is true. And my purpose is to ask what difference that makes? Some of the issues I want to consider are as follows.

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We have both good news and bad news the world needs to hear. (forgiveness and judgment). We are news-bearers. Are we a fragrance or a stench? Or both?

We have a justification to be kind but clear when it comes to any other worldviews or religions. Does this or that religion help me live in God’s world? We are not to fear, but can compassionately confront alternative worldviews.

We have every reason to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. There are a number of inadequate pictures of the Bible which seem to dominate Christian thinking. But what is the Bible? Really?

We desperately need the people of God, the church. For many the church is the great Evangelical option. “I’ll go if I have time.” “I’ll give if I can spare some loose change.” “I’ll serve if I have to.”

We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We will think through the book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense and draw certain conclusions about real, but temporary suffering in this broken world.

We are able to be supernaturally joyful despite the challenges of this fallen universe. What is true joy and how is it expressed in a seemingly progressive depressed world?

We can be biblically optimistic about the future because our God is sovereign.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2021 in truth

 

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“Pretty Sure” Versus CERTAIN! (A Great Super Bowl Commercial)

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2021 in commercials

 

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