May God give to you a view of sin that is consistent with the one He Himself has. This week I want to talk about something our culture has all but abandoned – and that is the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
Our society is one that has downplayed the idea of sin over the years. We’ve moved from a Biblical Worldview that equates the problems in the world to the sinfulness of man, to one that is moving away from calling anything sinful. The modern age is one in which every other “ology” is turned to rather than Theology. We desperately want to blame everyone except ourselves for the maladies of our day. The sinfulness of the human heart, inherited from Adam and inherently tied to original sin in the garden, is either considered too simple or too stupid to the modern populace of the modern thinkers of our time. We prefer to solve our issues with politics, psychotherapy, and pills.
Recently I have been reading The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning, and it has been reminding me of a far more Biblical view of sin. If someone had asked me if my view of sin needed strengthening, I probably would have said no. But after reading the first few chapters of Venning’s book, I have been corrected on that matter. As God, through the pen of this able wordsmith, has addressed sin and its sinfulness, I’ve been amazed at how much my view of sin has deteriorated over the years. Let me quote from the book to help me on this point.
"The works of sin are deformed and monstrously ugly, for it works disorder, confusion, and everything that is abominable. Sin may be arraigned for all the mischiefs and villainies that have been done in the world; it is the master of misrule, the author of sedition, the builder of Babel, the troubler of Israel and all mankind. So contrary is sin to the works of God, that it sought and still seeks to undo all that God does, that there might be no seed nor name, nor root left Him in all the earth . . . Sin is evil and does evil, indeed, it does nothing else.” (The Sinfulness of Sin, by Ralph Venning, pgs. 32-33)
As I’ve read Venning’s book I have realized that too often such much needed descriptions of sin are usually laughed at today – and the speaker of writer is written off as some crazed “evangelist” type – or hell-fire and brimstone preacher who needs more grace and kindness in his presentation. But that is not the case with what I’ve read so far. The desire of this author is not to elicit “amens” from a Sunday morning crowd or from a evening Revival meeting. He speaks of the holiness and glory of God with glowing affirmations and does not spend his time denouncing “pet sins” of his generation. Venning is genuinely concerned that men do not grasp how pernicious and horrific sin is. That is why he writes with such passion about sin and sinfulness.
One of the marvelous benefits of reading this volume is the way it is aiding me in seeing sin and utterly sinful and terrible. I am not being urged to rail against sinners whose sins grieve my sensibilities. Instead I am being led to God Himself, in whose presence sin is seen as the ultimate blight of MY OWN soul. His holiness only makes my sin that much more awful and hated – even as His grace forgives and His Spirit enables me to turn from it.
One might wonder why this is important to us? Why make all this fuss over a right comprehension of sin. The problem comes from a diminished view of God that rises up in our hearts when we make our peace with something with which God will never make peace. Sin, when seen properly is an odious and disgusting thing. We want nothing to do with it and retract in horror from it in our own lives and choices. This is true at least with those who grasp how terrible sin is in God’s eyes. The practice in our current time is to make little of sin – and much of conditions we have. Our conditions are named and others are blamed for them. In the end – sin – is now repackaged as something others should feel sorry for us over. We are not held responsible for our actions, attitudes, or messes. We have a syndrome – not a sin-choice. We have a condition – not a corruption. We are battling a social disease – not a sinful decision. In renaming sin and redefining it – we absolve ourselves of responsibility and can blame everyone and everything else for what we are doing.
Sin is a choice – a choice to ignore God’s Law and rebel against it. That rebellion is also against God Himself. Sin hurts us most assuredly, but much more than that, it grieves the heart of God. It incites His wrath and requires punishment. It is against the true order of things God purposed and it opposes His reign over all things at all times. But the worst thing of all is that sin falls short of the glory that God Himself is – and the glory which should characterize our lives as we are called to live for Him. May God in His mercy open our eyes to the sinfulness of sin – helping us to abhor it even as He does. May we see the malignancy of it as well as the destructive path that is portends to those who choose it. May we remember the price required to pay for it on our behalf, and thus learn to hate it and see it as the dangerous and horrific thing it is. And may we have grace to apprehend such things so that we learn to fully o embrace holiness with all that is in us – now and forevermore.
Last week I began a series of articles dealing with the core values that we hold here at Calvary Chapel. This week I want to address how we believe that we can know God. This is truly one of the very central of these core values, because it addresses not just that we believe we can know God, but addresses how we believe we can know Him.
At Calvary Chapel we believe that we can know God only because God has made Himself known to us, revealing Himself to us through His Word as well as through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This core value has to do with the biblical doctrine of revelation. When I say this I am not referring to the book of Revelation, but more importantly of the whole idea and concept of revelation itself. Let me explain.
If God did not choose to reveal himself to us – to make Himself known – there would be no way that we could know Him. There is such an infinite gulf between God and man that the only way it can be bridged is by God crossing it and mercifully making Himself known to us. This is true even without sin in the picture. God, being an eternal, infinite being is beyond what our minds can understand or grasp. It is only because God has graciously condescended to communicate with us that we can grasp Who He is. God put it this way to Isaiah,
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NASB)
God is gracious enough to make Himself known to us. He has made Himself known through His creation. Romans 1:19-20 says this to us,
“. . . because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20, NASB)
In nature we should see the invisible attributes of God’s eternal power and divine nature. Creation declares the glory of God to us – letting us know that the One Who made all this is infinitely greater than that which He has made. The vastness of the universe, and indeed the fact that in spite of all that we’ve come to know we still have vastly more to know, should shout to us of God’s majesty, glory, might, power, and infinitude. But our problem is that man has rejected this witness. Man does not even acknowledge God in nature choosing one of two horrific errors. Either, as Romans 1 says, man makes a god for himself out of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures or, as man rejects God entirely. Rather than believe in God, man chooses to believe himself an utterly astounding accident without a cause – that exists for no purpose.
Sin has led men to reject God – not even giving Him thanks or honoring Him. So, not only do we have a God too vast to be known without His gracious revelation of Himself, but our sin and rebellion have blinded us – darkened our understanding – hardened our hearts – and closed our eyes to His glory. We reject both God and His revelation of Himself, embracing instead ourselves as the only authorities in our lives. Truly we hold that we can be a better god than God – the result of which is the devastation of His image in us – darkness, destruction, and death.
God, Who had every right to absolutely reject us for such infinitely rebellious foolishness, instead chose to reveal Himself further to those who rebel against Him. He did this through His Word – and eventually through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He moved upon men through His Holy Spirit to give us an accurate, authoritative revelation of Who He is. He did this first in the Old Testament as He chose a man, Abraham, and a nation, Israel. He promised a Savior, though, as His ultimate revelation of Himself and His great love for us. That Savior is Jesus Christ, Who was revealed in history, which is also recorded for us through God’s Word, the Scriptures. God provided salvation through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He then gave us the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, so that we could also know the way He perfectly revealed His love and purpose through His Son.
Now, the fundamental way that we know God is through how He has revealed Himself in His Word. As we read and study His Word we come to know Who He is – His heart – His ways – His thoughts – His purposes, plans, and will. We are warned in the Scripture itself about those who do not speak according to and in agreement with His Word. We are told that such men and women do not even have the light of day. Paul even writes a curse upon those who do not preach the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible. This leads us to some very important truths and principles by which we live at Calvary Chapel.
We place greatest importance on what God’s Word says when it comes to all matters of doctrine and practice in our lives and in the church. That is why Bible teaching and Bible study are vitally important to us. We go by what the text of the Scripture says – not about how we feel about it. We go by a careful study of the whole of the Bible, not just pulling verses out of their context to create some teaching of our own making. We do not hold to revelation outside the Bible. There are some who want to make their own words that they speak equal with and at times more authoritative than Scripture. This is what theologicans call “extra-biblical” revelation. It says that some current day revelation from a prophet, preacher, or teacher is of equal authority (usually greater) than what has been given to us in the Old and New Testaments. We do not believe that a current revelation by a teacher or even someone who proposes to be a prophet has any authority in itself – and certainly does not constitute new Biblical revelation. God closed the canon or books of the Bible after the book of Revelation was given by the Holy Spirit to John. Therefore anything someone says that they have from or about God MUST conform to what we already have in Scripture. If it does not – we reject the teaching and the teacher of such things.
What is our practice as a result of this second core value? The result is that we seek to know God on the basis of what He has revealed of Himself in the Scriptures. We study them diligently to grasp what they say. We seek to understand the context in which they were given, as well as comparing passage with passage, to guard against misinterpreting them or making them say what we want instead of what God intended. We do not want to add to the Scriptures or take away from them. As Paul says through the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)
We do not look to current day prophets – or anyone who has a special word that they assert is equal to the Biblical revelation. We do not look to church councils or any special group or individual to speak new Scripture – or to speak anything that is more authoritative than what we already have in the Old and New Testaments. We do not give special place to creeds or statements made outside the Bible. The primary importance – and the only authoritative word for us is the Word of God. The Word of God is how we believe God has revealed Himself to us. That is why we place primary importance on teaching it from cover to cover, book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse. We believe it is only as we know God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible that we can know God.
A Theology of Aging, part 1
The last time I wrote to you, I spoke of the lessons God was teaching me as I care for my mom after her stroke. This is not something isolated to me - many who live into their 40's and 50's will have to walk through a time when their parent's health fails. Some lose their loved ones quickly through a heart attack or massive stroke - but others face the task of loving their closest family members through a much longer, debilitating illness. That is what I may be facing in the weeks and months ahead. It is already what I've faced in the we lost Sherie's mom and my father. So where does God fit in to all this?
As I've walked through this time, I've been thinking about aging. If you see another sunrise - you are participating in aging. It is something we all do in life, but seldom think about unless there is a situation which pressing such a thought into our minds. Before all this happened, the only times I thought about aging was after a workout after a long layoff - or maybe someone's death. Most often we let such thoughts come and go rather quickly. But a debilitating illness brings the issue front and center. Let me share a few things I learned - and maybe lay out a very brief theology of aging.
First of all - aging is a result of the Fall. I am not sure what exactly would have happened with Adam and Eve if they had obeyed God and lived until they were several thousand years old or more. The Fall brought aging and death to the world. Even after that the early ancestors of Adam and Eve lived for hundreds of years - most of them passing 500 or more. It was only after the Flood that God chose to limit man's time on the earth to a hundred years or less. His decree at that time was that He would only strive with man 70 years - and so from that time forward old age was relegated to our 60's through 80's. Those who would live into their 90's were few and even fewer would live past 100. The norm for mankind was exactly what God said in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed for man to die once, and then comes the judgment." Any decent theology of aging begins here - because I am not sure that before the Fall aging was going to be an issue. It certainly is not one in heaven, where we will receive a new body that will last for all eternity. Thus the issue of aging is only applicable for those of us who are between birth and death here on earth.
The fact that we are going to age and eventually die is to have its proper effect upon us. The reality of death and an appointed time to face the judgment should turn us to seek God. That is the effect it had in Genesis on men. When Seth had his first son (which was after the death of his brother Abel whom Cain murdered) he named him Enosh. That name means mortal man - and focuses on the mortality of man. It was at that time - and after that name was made known to mankind that ". . . men began to call upon the name of the LORD." There was something about knowing our mortality that awakened mankind to the need to call on the name of the Lord. We needed God - and death woke us up to that truth. That is why Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that thoughts of our mortality will make us wise. Let's look at those verses in Ecclesiastes 7 for a moment, as we close out our first installment on a theology of aging.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NASB)
Solomon is not just a depressed old man, as some may think. He spoke wisdom when he wrote these words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The end of every man is to be in a house of mourning. A wise man knows this and "takes it to heart." He remembers that this life is not just about "this life." We will have to face God when our lives come to an end - and a wise man would consider this fact as he lives out the few days he has on this planet. The rich farmer in the parable of Jesus made his decision without a proper theology of aging and death. His barns were already full when he had another bumper crop. As he thought about what to do, his thoughts turned to what he should do with this additional wealth. His decision was to tear down his existing barns, build new ones, and store his new found wealth so that he would be set for life. What he did not realize was that his life had only one more evening before it was over. God's Word to him was this, "You fool! This night your life is required of you, and what will you do with all this wealth?" His decision was based on a wrong theology of aging. He was about to see his life end - and - he had done nothing to prepare for eternity. He would not enjoy any of his wealth for longer than 24 hours - followed by an eternity in hell. So now how do you feel about Solomon's wise words from God?
The mind of fools is in . . . are you ready for this? It is in the house of pleasure. This man is thinking that the purpose of life is pleasure. Now we need to realize that God wants us to enjoy things. Even Solomon speaks of enjoying the wife of your youth - good food - good friends - and life in general. But - a life lived only for pleasure is a foolish life. Our times of pleasure and fun need to be balanced with times when we consider the end of life - and what is beyond the grave. A wise man thinks about things like eternity - and about what this life is all about. Death and the way it takes everything of this life from us - should make us realize that life is about more than the things of this life. As Solomon says, ". . . this is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart." We are to take to heart the death of family and friends. We are to see that all is not as it should be in this world. In a later chapter of Ecclesiastes Solomon describes the process of aging - and honestly - it isn't very pretty. Very real and truthful - just not particularly pretty. Yet - that is the end for all of us who walk through this whole thing called aging.
So what should our response be to this whole thing called, aging? First of all I want everyone reading this to know that there is not just one response. But, that being said, there should be one response that we should not miss. That response is the one that addresses our mortality. We should be wise in knowing that there is more to life than just this present existance. We should see things like mortality and death and allow them to speak an important message to us. Things are not right here - and we should explore whether there is more than just the here and now. We should explore why the creator of such a marvelous world as ours, filled with so much life, creativity, and wonder - has it age, fall apart, and die eventually. As we ask such questions and explore such things, God's purpose is that we would come to understand the gospel and His work to restore and redeem this world from the death and dying that dominate it. Remember that the purpose of theology, even a theology of aging and death, is to know God through it.
Aging and death are real - that has once again forced its way upon my consciousness. But how glorious it is to see that even in this God's purpose is to bring His gospel and His calling me to Himself to the forefront. Yes, the topic of the theology of aging and death can seem depressing - but only to those who miss God's grace in it all - calling us beyond this life - beyond the mere pleasures of today - to eternity and the glorious pleasures forever at His right hand.
May God truly establish you this day—this week—this year—the rest of your life on His grace and only His grace.
Understanding and knowing God’s grace will change everything in your life. It is this one truth that is more misunderstood yet is more needed than just about anything else in our lives. God’s grace centers around the issue of our sin, our acceptability to God, and how we get there. For the next couple of articles I want to begin to camp out on the grace of God. Truly if we can “get” this doctrine—this truth active in our lives—it will indeed change everything for us.
Let me begin with what we will have to grasp in order to understand God’s grace—and that is our sinfulness and inability to stand before God in anything but His grace. This may seem like a strange place to begin our journey together, yet it is often because of misunderstandings here that we wind up with misunderstandings about the grace of God later. A wrong view of our sinfulness will lead to a wrong view of God’s grace as well. Our sinfulness before a holy God is absolute. There is no other way out of our sin than the grace of God. We do not have any alternative if we want to be in a right relationship with God and out from under His wrath that will be poured out upon sin as punishment for it. Either it is His grace—freely given through the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did to pay for sin on the cross . . . or . . . It is the horrifying specter of one day facing that wrath on the day of judgment. There is not a time in our lives, nor will there ever be one, when our relationship with God is not entirely dependent upon His grace. It is grace for our rescue from sin’s penalty, grace for our daily rescue from sin’s power, and grace from our ultimate rescue from the wrath of God on the day when all men will give an account to God for their lives.
Too many view sinfulness and the ruin that comes with it as something other than our absolute inability to be in a right relationship with God. They see it as a problem—but it is one “they” can work on in their own strength. Christians see sin as a problem solved by getting saved—but then it is up to them to “keep-up” salvation by their own obedient actions. The truth from the Word though is that we do not need better behavior, we need perfect righteousness at all times to stand before God. Even if we got this initially at our salvation—we could never maintain it. We would surely blow it—and that in short order. The fact is that we daily depend (actually we depend on God’s grace every millisecond of every day) on God’s grace. It is His gift of “declaring us righteous” as an act of His grace that EVER allows us to stand. And it is that glorious grace that allows us to walk daily (millisecond-ly if you will) in God’s peace—knowing His acceptance of us based solely and completely out of the wonderful grace that is ours in Jesus Christ.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
Thank you for visiting our website! Everything on this site is offered for free. If, however, you would like to make a donation to help pay for its continued presence on the internet, you can do that by clicking here. The only thing we ask is that you give first to the local church you attend.
Copyright 2024 Calvary Chapel Jonesboro | all rights reserved