Comment (If All Men Are Truly Brothers)

A great song that I've probably heard a dozen times listening to this album ... "Kicking Television" by Wilco. Here are the lyrics. Watch out for your friends Well they may lose in the end Sometimes their child can make you sin What is a man without a friend? We all live within a game The word 'excuse' has many names Where true friends really come You can't afford to lose one

If all men were truly brothers Why then do we hurt one another? Love and peace from ocean to ocean Somebody please second my emotion! All men were born to be free, yeah What about you? And what about me? This world is filled with hate! There's nothing left If you enslave me, you'll never rescue yourself

Well jealousy, as I recall Has always been man's hardest fall To conquer fear, well that's quite a quest Until we do never rest A child was born yesterday Nothing but an innocent babe Someone sowed a bitter seed How could it grow but a bitter weed? Society, how can you teach If you don't practice what you preach?

If all men were truly brothers Why then, can't we love one another? Love and peace from ocean to ocean Somebody please second my emotion! All men were born to be free, yeah What about you? What about me? This world is filled with hate! There's nothing left If you enslave me, you'll only hurt yourself

Hey you! Over there! I want to know why you left With all your riches and your fancy things Can you tell me how many friends can you truly say you have?

My Confession

It's an ongoing debate - there are some that seem to make salvation a passive event, where God does everything and we are but bystanders; and the extreme view of others that we have to demonstrate to God our contrition/achievements/worth/deservedness, and make salvation a good-works talent show designed to impress God. I know more people who will confess to the former, that God is the only active agent in salvation; but I know many live as though the latter were true. If you've read my blog for any time at all, you know that I have some strong opinions about the former, and that I find the latter to be silly and laughable. Rather than shoot at one idea or the other, I wanted to try to make an affirmative statement of my views. I've been spending a lot of time lately in focused prayer and fasting, because I've found that I'm impulsive, and my impulses are not godly. They keep getting me into trouble. So here's my statement - Christianity is Truth. Jesus Christ is God, and God is one. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and has atoned for my sins. Through repentance and baptism in His name, I have taken part of his death and burial, and I have risen as a new creature with Him when I was filled with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues. I believe that Jesus is Lord, I believe there is one God, and I believe in Christianity.

Here's the problem - there's a disconnect between what I believe and how I live. I find myself still struggling with sin and doubt and fear and a lot of other things, and I've been wondering lately - if I struggle with sin, or if I'm still bound by sin (I submit there's a difference between sinning and being bound by sin), then what good is my professed faith?

There's a difference between mental assent and real faith. Faith means action. Faith is a verb. James' epistle is a terrific book, but it has to be read with the right attitude. If read too seriously, too literally, you'll miss the point. James is incredibly sarcastic. Most of what he's writing needs to be read with tongue firmly planted in cheek. In James 2:19, he is in the middle of berating them for being selfish and for focusing far too much on the spiritual and not being very practical. After jumping on their case for a bit, James says, "Oh, I know what you're going to say! You're going to tell me that you believe in one God. Well, whoopity-do! The demons in hell also believe in one God, and it scares them to death!" (Brad Titus paraphrase)

James points out - rather aggressively - that simply agreeing with a fact isn't the same as faith. Faith does things. And that's how you know it's real. We're justified by grace through faith in Jesus, but if we have saving faith, it will manifest itself in how we live/act/think/talk. In my case, it will change me right down to my impulses. I shouldn't react so carnally anymore.

Christianity is Messy

A friend of mine reminds me every time I need to vent about the insane things that go on around the church or with people - "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean (Proverbs 14:4)." Christianity is a messy enterprise. People who come into the church are hurting, broken, damaged, angry ... so many things. And working with them to help them find healing and restoration is messy. But once you become a Christian, that doesn't mean that all of the stuff of life ceases to affect you. In fact, it may get worse. Whether it gets worse or not (which is an entirely different area of debate), the fact remains that LIFE still happens, and LIFE brings with it pain, and sorrow, and disappointment, and frustration .... All this is a result of us living in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and disobeyed God and were cast out of the garden, it didn't just affect humanity. Farming and cultivation became more difficult, reproduction became more difficult, death and disease entered into the world, and we all deal with these prices of sin today.

So while we may be redeemed by Christ once we are saved, we still live and exist in a fallen world. We aren't immune from the symptoms of the disease, so when life strikes, it can strike the Church as well. Jesus said that the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. Not every hardship is an assault from Satan or a trial from God - sometimes it's just life.

The Warring of the Members: Faith v. Doubt

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 7:15-8:1

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine last night about confidence in our salvation. We agreed that neither of us are afraid of going to hell - we are not worried that if we die, we won't see Jesus in heaven. Neither of us are perfect, but we trust in Jesus' finished work on the Cross.

I always wondered about the above passage of scripture - I wanted to know what it was that Paul battled. What was his battle? What was his struggle? What caused Paul, the great apostle, to stumble or fall? What was Paul's weakness? It always bothered me that he didn't talk about it, but someone pointed out that perhaps, if Paul had made it specific, people would have isolated his point to that one issue, rather than take the bigger principle that Paul lays out - every believer will have a struggle between his renewed mind and his fallen flesh, and some days the old man wins. I think that's right.

People like boundaries; they like rules. They seem to like them especially in religion. But that's not what Christianity is about - it's not a set of rules, a list of do's and don't's wherein we find our salvation. It's about relationship, and relationship is dynamic. That's not to say that there aren't absolutes - there are - but Christianity can't be static. It can't exist as a set of rules.

Because of the dynamic nature of real Christianity, I sometimes battle with doubt. I went through a pretty dark period a while ago, and I was ready to turn away from all of it. It wasn't even that I didn't believe God existed - I did. I know this because I was mad at Him. I didn't feel like He was coming through for me when I needed Him. He did, and the period that followed was one of incredible spiritual growth, healing, and restoration.

But I have doubts. Nagging questions, causing me to think and wonder and daydream and lay awake at night wondering, asking "What if?" to the shadows on the wall. It's these doubts that, each morning, drive me again to my knees. These questions that don't have answers cause me to dig deeper into the Bible, to hear what God has to say to me. These doubts and these questions challenge my faith, and my faith silences my doubt.

It's a continual battle that I fight inside my mind and my heart, and while there are a lot of things that cause me to ask "What if?", I never doubt that Jesus is very near, and that He loves me, and that when I go, I will be with Him in heaven.

Sometimes I want to cry out like Paul, how wretched I am! Where is my hope? Then I'm gently reminded by faith - Glory to God through my Lord Jesus. I'm not condemned because I wonder - I'm better because of it. It drives me to pray, to study, to read, to think, and to trust in Him.

Person of the Year

I'll be honest - I never expected to actually be Time's Person of the Year this year. There was a lot that happened, and I think Ben Bernanke was a nice choice. But I was a little disappointed that I didn't even get a runner-up nod. I mean, the Chinese Workers were runners-up! Maybe I'm still a little cocky from sharing the award with the other 6.7 billion people inhabiting the planet in 2006, but I think I accomplished a lot this year. (The downside of sharing an award like this is that you can't very well put it on your resume - you don't stand out from the pack when everyone else shares the honor) After all, I accomplished a lot this year. Sure, the Chinese worker helped influence the world, but where would they be if it weren't for the American consumer (me) spending money I didn't have in order to finance their economy? Honor where honor is due, my friends.

And, I stimulated the used-car economy by buying a used Jeep, and now I'm ensuring that those poor, struggling, multi-national oil companies can continue to stay afloat as I keep gas in my SUV.

I contributed to the stability of the airline industry by flying (once), to the textile industry by shopping for clothes, to the fast-food industry by over-eating, and to the third-world coffee farmers by drinking obscene amounts of fair-trade coffee from Starbucks.

I stayed in a hotel (once), bought new shoes (twice), and saved a bank by working on a Saturday when I was scheduled off. I'm a regular economic stimulus program, here.

So, Time editors, next year, remember me when making considerations for your Person of the Year. In 2010, I'm planning on losing weight and getting out of debt. Then I'll buy a house. Helloooooo infamy.

Christmas - The Gospel in the Curse

I may or may not get to preach or teach before Christmas, so I wanted to take the time to blog this. As a result of the disobedience of man in Genesis 3, God doles out punishment to all parties involved. To the serpent, He says,

Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

In the immediate context, it's not clear who "He" will be, but on the New Testament side of history, it becomes clear. From the seed of the woman - the next Adam - would come the one who would have victory over Satan. And while Adam and Eve couldn't have known what it meant, in that moment of God's anger and righteous judgment, we see the grace that is the very essence of who God is.

I preached recently that God is in the business of saving people. We see that here - even while God was sending down a curse upon humanity, He had a plan to beat the curse. While Satan had previously only had enmity with God, he would now have enmity with man, and through humanity, God would provide the answer for the sin problem. Here, at the fall of man, we see a foreshadowing of the Gospel.

The story of Christmas is the beginning of the Gospel - that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. God became the man Jesus so that by Him, we could have access and communion with God. Not only that, but that our sinfulness would be put upon Christ, so that Christ's righteousness would be placed upon us, and we can look forward to, one day, being caught up to spend eternity in heaven with Christ. But this story, this great story of love, grace, and redemption, it starts in a manger. It starts with a virgin, and a star, and a decree by Caesar, and a trip to Bethlehem. This is where the entire Gospel starts - with Christmas.

And that's what I love about Christmas.

And Not to Leave the Other Undone - Matthew 23:23

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." - Matthew 23:23 There are some new, enlightened people who often criticize conservative folks for being too legalistic, whited sepulchres more interested in the outward appearance than the inward condition. Instead they say we should be more interested in social justice, feeding the poor, etc. This doesn't make you a better Christian if you leave the other undone. Why do you think that the other doesn't matter? Jesus said to do both - and not to leave either of them undone.

Digital Literature

I'm a book guy. The best gift that ANYONE, ANYTIME, can get me, is books. Or, better yet, a gift card to, so I can buy my own books. I love to read, I love to have books, I love to smell books. I dream of reaching a point in my life that I can have a room, a big room, with bookshelves on all the walls, from floor to ceiling, a desk, comfortable chairs, and plenty of good lighting, that I can dedicate to reading, studying, and writing. That's my dream. I love books.

At one point, I didn't like the idea of digital literature, whether it be in the form of books online to read at a computer or the new digital readers from Sony, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. But, I've reconsidered, and I think I want a Kindle.

I say all that to introduce the topic of digital literature. There was a segment today on the Diane Rehm Show about the digitizing of books and the growing popularity of the eReaders. They offer great ease, especially for someone who has several books they want access to at a time - the Amazon Kindle, for instance, can hold about 15,000 books on it. I'm thinking college textbooks. How great would it be to not have to lug books to all your classes, but download a digital version instead?

Also, I wonder, will there be a development similar to the iTunes movie rental program, where you can "rent" the book for a month or so and then have it removed at the end of that period of time. I think these could be great steps in advancing eReading platforms.

And, Mom, I want an Amazon Kindle for Christmas.

Story of My Life

I don't really have anything profound or thoughtful to say, but I enjoy blogging.

Life is busy. I somehow, foolishly, thought that when I finished school and got married and only had a job to worry about, I'd have more free time. Anyone who has done those things knows how crazy that is. And so it is for me. Granted, things at work are especially busy lately - my average work week is 6 days, 55 hours or so - but I don't feel like I have any time to do the things I really want to do. My time is totally consumed by working so that I can afford to do the things I want to do that I don't have time to do the things I want to do.

It's sad - I studied something at school that I love to go work in a job that I don't particularly enjoy. I'd rather be back in school!

I don't like to focus on that. I have a great wife, wonderful friends and family, and so much to do at church. But I feel like my job takes up so much of my time. And if I must have a job that requires so much of my time, is it too much to ask that it be a job that is interesting and intellectually stimulating? There's nothing new about the job - it's the same thing, day in and day out. I'm thankful to have it, but I wish I were doing something where it seemed as though I were contributing to the human experience in some way, as opposed to the same scripted, "What cashbox? What date? How much was the teller out?"

Of course, the only reason I work so much is because I made bad financial decisions earlier. If it weren't for the debt, I wouldn't need all the overtime. And if it weren't for the overtime, I'd have more time to spend at home with my wife, reading, working on writing, and doing the things I love.

But moving on, things at church are great. I really feel like I'm being given a lot of opportunities to learn from the leadership at Calvary, both through access to the ministers and by beginning to play a leadership role in some capacities. It's a neat opportunity, and I like being able to go to my mentors and ask questions, and then hear not just what they decide, but for them to explain to me why. For me, that is the most valuable part of it all. I'm learning how to apply good, biblical principles to basic, everyday life issues. This might be some of the best ministry training available.

As the holidays approach, there's a lot more going on. I no longer play in the orchestra at church, as I've gotten involed in other areas. But, as a favor to my dad, my brother and I are sort of "rejoining" to play in the Christmas concert. Also, as is tradition, Dad and I practice and prepare and we go Christmas caroling to some friends' homes and at church the Sunday before Christmas. This year, we have a couple more people to be involved, so hopefully we can work up a couple of cool songs - I'm hoping to do a version of "Carol of the Bells." Also, some family from Michigan is coming down for Thanksgiving, so the annual Titus family football game will be even grander than usual.

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks. It will be a great time with family and friends.

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GenerationMe: The Pressure of NonConformity

I've been reading a book that I picked up from an former prof before I graduated titled GenerationMe: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before by Jean Twenge, Ph.D. Other than having an incredibly unwieldy title, I think Ms. Twenge stumbled onto a very profound statement, even in her title - "Why today's young Americans are ... more miserable than ever before."

The first chapter of the book deals with non-conformity as a hallmark of this generation, which is an influence of postmodernism that influences art, architecture, and philosophy. And, ultimately, I think postmodernism is at the root of this desire to become a nonconformist. What's ironic, to me, is that this generation seems to express their nonconformity in the same way. The Gothic trend of the late 90's and the Emo phase of today are all examples of this phenomenon that young people can express their nonconformity by, essentially, conforming. Thank goodness this new generation of independent thinkers has new-vintage, mass-produced-unique finds at the local revolutionary store that confronts American capitalist aggression ... like Urban Outfitters and H&M.

This pressure to fit in by nonconformity is laughable. Our countercultural institutions are multi-billion dollar conglomorates. I'm a Mac guy, but even the anti-establishment Mac image is run by a guy who is two years older than my dad.The entire nonconformity bit is a farce, and the people getting played the most are the ones trying to rebel. They're unique, just like everyone else.

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Why I Love Wikipedia

I can look into one thing on Wikipedia and then oh shiny another topic with a link that I can click and a whole world of information that links to another idea a question I have and something else popped into my head and I can enter the search and oh shiny more information look a link about chewbacca and his weapon and then a search on military weapons inspired by Star Wars HEY Star Wars was a failed a missile defense shield by Ronald Reagen and here's a link to Ronald Reagen and the GOP and the history of the GOP and the new Republicans and the 1980s and a link to the 1980s and the music and musicians from the 80s and Elton John was big in the 80s and here are the top hits of Elton John and a list of movies that had Elton John music and oh look Bennie and the Jets was used in a movie with Kate Whats-Her-Name and she was in a movie with Dane Cook and Dane Cook is a comedian and a list of comedians in America and the history of comedy and ... and ... and ....

It's good for people with ADD.

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Fighting the Big 'O'

A few years ago, my pastor preached a sermon with the above title - "Fighting The Big 'O'." Basically, he was admonishing us not to get offended too easily. I'm reminding myself of that today. I feel very frustrated - like I'm stuck in neutral, revving the engine but not engaging anything. I feel like I'm being passed up for things I think I am ready for and should be doing, and to mix metaphors, I feel like I'm only playing on the practice squad. And, frankly, I'm getting my poor little feelings hurt.

Ultimately, it's pretty pathetic, and when I back away from it, I realize it. But that doesn't make it any better. I feel frustrated because I'm not doing things for God that I want to be doing. I recognize that I'm still paying for bad decisions made years ago. I recognize that my temperment is part of my problem and I need to work it out. But at the same time, I see where some of my friends are in ministry, and I want to be there. I long to do more than I do now, and I don't feel like I'm making progress.

I don't want to get bitter. I recognize that this is where the roots of bitterness can come from. I want to have a better attitude and to just do what I'm asked to do in the right attitude.

There's a quote - 'I don't always know what the right thing to do is, my Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please You pleases You' - that I feel like applies to this situation quite well. I don't want to have a bad attitude. I don't want to let that creep into my heart. I don't want to sin, ironically, over my frustrations with how I can serve Him. I don't want to be offended, I don't want to be bitter, and I want to be a better Christian.

My Wife and The Ministry

Genesis 2:15, 18-24 (ESV)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

I love my wife. She is my best friend - the person I laugh with, cry with, pray with, talk to, and do the work of ministry with. We are involved in Bible Quizzing, Young Adults, and several other ministries at church together. But what I love best about her is that she complements me in things I don't do well.

Sometimes I get a little too excited about the big theological ideas and lose sight of how they matter. But she helps ground me in reality. She's very practical, and I am not. She's very organized, and I am not.

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. My pastor is a great man, and his wife is an amazing woman. My father is a great man, and he tells me time and again that he wouldn't be where he is without the support of my mother. I have great examples of great men, and I also have a great wife.

I love my wife. She's my best friend, but even more, she's my God-given helper, well-measured for me and all my foibles, to make a great team for ministry.

Submit - Wives, Husbands, Everyone

Ever since I proposed to the woman who is now my wife, I've been challenged and troubled by Ephesians 5:25-33, where husbands are commanded to "love [their] wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...." It goes on to explain in what ways Christ has loved the church and how that applies to a husband in his treatment of his wife ... and that's really tough. I hear a lot of people talking all about wives submitting to their husbands, but I don't often hear of people talking about husbands laying down their lives for their wives. Of course, I don't mean husbands literally dying (though that may be included), but I'm talking about husbands making the needs and desires of their wives their utmost priority - the advice my father gave me and my brother before we got married was, "If you're ever in a place where you have to decide between your wants or your wife's, take care of your wife. It's your responsibility." He's right. As a husband, I must make sure my wife has everything she needs. I am sinning if I put my needs ahead of my wife's.

But that, while intriguing and challenging, isn't my point. My point is this - Paul is talking about how Christians should interact with each other. It goes back to Ephesians 4:1, where he begins with "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph 4:1-3, ESV) He talks about how the unity - oneness - of God in Christ is a reflection of the unity that should be in the church (vv. 4:4-6), and how the different offices of the church work together to achieve this ideal unity (vv. 4:11-16). Next, Paul reminds the Ephesians (and us as the church) that they should not live by the values and example of the world, but be renewed, and gives practical instructions of how to live together in unity (vv. 4:17-32).

Ephesians chapter 5 begins with a directive to behave as imitators of God as if we were children imitating our father. We must walk in a way that honors God and separates ourselves from the world (vv. 5:2-21). Paul summarizes this thought with "[submit] to one another out of reverence to the Lord" (Eph. 5:21 ESV, emphasis mine). Our worship and reverence is, in part, submitting to one another, serving one another, loving one another, taking care of one another ... a concept which is totally contrary to American culture.

CS Lewis says that "the moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first - wanting to be the centre - wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was that they could 'be like gods'." The surest way to prevent this in our lives is to serve God by serving others.

Christianity is a Terrible Religion

I recently tweeted that "Christianity is a terrible religion" and included the link below. Allow me to clarify. Christianity as a religion alone is terrible because it offers nothing more than any other religion in the world. But Christianity as a lifestyle - as the only answer to the ultimate sin problem - that is exactly what it should be.

That Christianity will save lives and revolutionize the world.

We are saved and are being saved by Christ's accomplished work on the cross. Our salvation isn't by anything we do - even our very best righteousness is as a filthy rag, unclean and never to be used again. If we try and attain righteousness through our good works or by adhering to some moral or religious code, then we will fall terribly short and find ourselves in a desperate situation, in dire need of a saviour. But if we can embrace the finished work of the cross, then we will be empowered to live a holy life; we won't need our righteousness, but we will have Christ's righteousness imputed to us; we won't have to defend our actions, but we will be justified freely by his blood.

Christianity as a religion is worthless; Christianity as a doctrine is joyous.

Simplify, Simplify

1 Corinthians 1:19-24 "For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God."

Henry David Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify." We live complicated lives, busy lives, hectic lives, and it wouldn't hurt us to scale back occassionally and simplify.

But that's not my point. I love philosophy (philosophy-philia?) and theology - I love to ask questions and wrestle with ideas and examine the implications of a particular worldview - I love it! I was listening to Ravi Zaccharias the other day defending a Christian worldview against all other worldviews, and Jesus spoke to my heart and said, "Simplify."

Jesus gently reminded me that gospel is, frankly, very simple. What good do all of my questions do if I don't use them to equip myself for outreach? Simplify.

What good does a rock solid defense of the Christian worldview do if I don't share the basic gospel with my neighbor? Simplify.

We're all sinners. That's not hard to convince people of. We live in a shattered, broken world. People - normal people - get this. Nothing we can do can fix our brokenness. All our righteousness is filthy and worthless. But Jesus came to save us. Jesus stands between us and God and reconciles us. Jesus takes our sin onto himself and puts His righteousness on us. Simplify.

The gospel is simple. You're a sinner, but Jesus loves you. He died for you and rose again. Through Him, you can have eternal life. That's what we tell the world.


On The Remoteness of God and Original Sin

I received a book from a good friend of mine for graduation titled Letters to Young Scholars - An Introduction to Christian Thought by William Carey Ringenberg. The first chapter presented two questions that got me thinking and writing. One - How do I understand the distance between God and man (humanity)? and

Two - Two what extent do I accept the doctrine of original sin?

These questions are related, at least in my answer, so here goes.

Originally, God walked side-by-side with man, visiting him in the cool of the day, as was normal (Genesis 3). When sin entered in, man no longer was able to commune so easily with God. There was a gap. This gap continues today, a canyon that separates man and God in a way that no man can bridge. We can't go around, we can't cross through, but we can see the other end, and long for it. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, my cry of repentance brings the blood of Christ to bridge that canyon and enables me to access and commune with God.

The next question directly relates to that - whose sin separates me? Are we separated from God because of inherited sinfulness and guilt from our father, Adam, or are we born with a fallen, human nature, and a capacity for and propensity towards sin?

The former, a tenet of classic Calvinism, teaches total depravity at birth, a result of Adam's sin in the garden, passed on to all generations. I have multiple issues with this. First, most Calvinists don't teach infant baptism, which they should, if we're all born guilty and condemned. The sooner we can get them into the water, the better. Secondly, this argument hinges heavily (almost exclusively) on a particular reading of Romans 5:12-21, most notably 5:18-19 - "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." If, according to the reading of this scripture, we are all condemned by Adam's sin, how can you not say that the work of Christ accomplishes the opposite? If we are all made guilty by Adam's sin, aren't we all made righteous by Christ's act of righteousness? The Greek word, kathistēmi (Strongs G2525), is the same in both instances. So, if we are all MADE guilty by Adam, are we all MADE righteous by Christ? Unless you are a universalist, no. Not everyone is saved by Jesus' sacrifice at Calvary, but we all can be saved, if we will receive it.

The other notion is the correct understanding. We are sinners because of our actions. We are guilty because we have done things we shouldn't, don't do things we should, or because we do them from the wrong reasons. As humans, since the garden, we are fallen, and all of us have a fallen, human nature that is guided, primarily, by selfishness. Even our initial response to grace at repentance is selfish, a desire to be saved from certain death and condemnation. But when we call out to Jesus, He responds and begins changing our hearts, causing us to be driven by a new motive. The selfishness can be overcome by the working of the Spirit, but not outside of it.

The Cessationist

I have a friend whose father is a cessationist. Ever since she received the Holy Ghost, he has reminded her that those supernatural experiences are fake, because they don't happen anymore. He's not a bad person - he loves God and studies the Scripture and lives a good life. But he is wrong.

Recently, his daughter and her husband have had some serious battles with illness. In the emergency room with them both one night, we all prayed that God would perform a miracle in their lives.

He's not much of a cessationist, after all.