There’s a Wolf in THE SHACK

 

The Heretical Theology of William P. Young in The Shack

Remember the folk tale of Little Red Riding Hood?  In most versions of the story, a young girl is walking to her sickly grandmother’s cottage with a basket of goodies.  Along the way, she meets a big, bad wolf who wants to eat her.  The wolf tricks her into telling where she is going.  The wolf gets to grandmother’s cottage first, and eats the grandmother.  He then puts on her clothing as a disguise and gets into her bed.  When Red Riding hood arrives, she is fooled by the wolf, and would have been eaten if she had not been rescued by a brave woodsman.

In the book The Shack by author William P. Young (and in the 2017 movie based on the book), the protagonist, Mackenzie Phillips, called “Mack,” meets God, who is portrayed as a grandmotherly woman called Papa living in a cottage.  And like Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, the grandmotherly woman in The Shack is a wolf in disguise.

William P. Young

The Bible often refers to false teachers as wolves.  For example, in Matthew 7:15, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”  Ezekiel describes Israel’s false teachers by writing, “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken” (Ezekiel 22:27-28).  And the Apostle Paul warned the church leaders at Ephesus, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

In my previous blog, I discussed the bad theology I believe ruined an otherwise wonderful movie about forgiveness.  After reading my review, one of my readers pointed me to a new 2017 book by William P. Young called Lies We Believe About God.  According to the book’s description on Amazon.com,

Wm. Paul Young has been called a heretic for the ways he vividly portrays God’s love through his novels. Here he shares twenty-eight commonly uttered and sometimes seemingly innocuous things we say about God. Paul exposes these as lies that keep us from having a full, loving relationship with our Creator.

Many of the beliefs Young calls “lies” are in fact lies, according to the Bible.  For example, Young includes chapters on “God blesses my politics,” “God is a magician,” “God is a divine Santa Claus,” and “God loves me for my potential.”  None of these ideas are biblical.  The problem is that other chapters deny essential truths of the Bible.  Three of the most egregious truths that Young calls lies are as follows/

“You need to get saved.”

Young believes the saying, “You need to get saved,” is a lie.  Young writes in Lies We Believe About God:

So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel?

The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.

He continues:

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!

Young uses several verses from the Bible to justify his assertion of universal salvation:

  • John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:10 “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”
  • John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 “God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19 “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

The problem is that Young cherry-picks verses out of context to support his view, while completely ignoring others that contradict it.  Young is correct that God’s gift of salvation is offered universally to all people, but misses the fact that not all people will receive this precious gift.  Consider these verses:

  • John 1:10-13 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
  • Revelation 21:27 (speaking of Heaven) “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Scripture is clear that not all people will receive God’s amazing gift of salvation.  Only those who repent and believe are saved.  “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  “..if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” Romans 10:9-10).

“Sin separates us from God.”

Young believes that sin does NOT separate us from God.  He writes in Lies We Believe About God:

  • The irony is that the healing for their sadness is always within their reach, because their actions never had the power to separate them from God in the first place.
  • There is a truth about who you are: God’s proclamation about a “very good creation” is the truest about you. That very good creation is the form or origin of you, the truth of who you are in your being. Sin, then, is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.
  • If separation is a lie, does it mean that no one has ever been separated from God? That is exactly what it means. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38–39). Jesus did not come to build a bridge back to God or to offer the possibility of getting unseparated.
  • Do we think we can be so wretched and sinful that we become abhorrent to God… No! There is no separation.

What does the Bible have to say about separation from God?

  • Isaiah 59:1-2 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
  • John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

What about Romans 8:38–39?  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In context, Paul is talking about those who have been saved, not all of humanity. The context:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit… But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His… For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:1, 9, 13-14).

For those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  However, for those who do not repent and trust in Jesus, they will forever be separated from God.  As it states in Revelation 20:12-15:

 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

“God is good. I am not.”

Young believes in the inherent goodness of humanity.  He writes:

The truth is that we have inherent value because we are made in the image of God. Our value and worth are not dependent on us. But those of us who are desperately broken and wounded may believe that if there is nothing good in us, there is no hope for real transformation.

Does anything that is “not good” originate in God? No! Are we still image bearers, made in the image of God? Yes, we are!

I am fundamentally good because I am created “in Christ” as an expression of God, an image bearer, imago dei (see Ephesians 2:10). This identity and goodness is truer about us than any of the damage that was done to us or by us.

Young’s argument is that because we are created in the image of God, we must be good, because God is good, and cannot create anything that is not good.  What Young fails to understand is that although humanity was created “very good,” our sin has marred the image of God in us.  Originally created “good,” we are now sinners.

  • Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
  • Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
  • Romans 3:10-12 “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
  • Romans 7:18 “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.”

Young also fails to grasp that God loves us despite our depravity, not because of our goodness.  This is the very essence of the Gospel.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  God saves us, not because we are inherently good, but because of His great mercy and grace.  Mercy can be defined as not getting what we deserve, while grace can be defined as getting what we don’t deserve.  They’re opposite sides of the same coin.  Because of sin, we all deserve Hell.  God, in His mercy, gives us the opportunity to avoid Hell by repenting of sin and making Jesus Christ our Lord.  Because of sin, we do not deserve a relationship with God.  God, in His grace, offers us a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.  God cannot offer mercy, grace, or forgiveness to “good” people, but only to those who don’t deserve it because of sin.  If we were “good,” we wouldn’t need mercy or grace.

Young does make an important point, however.  He states, “The truth is that we have inherent value because we are made in the image of God. Our value and worth are not dependent on us.”  This is absolutely true.  Young relates his personal story of growing up in an abusive home.  He writes:

“Growing up with my father was too often terrifying. Being around him was like walking through a minefield, with the explosive devices changing positions every night while I slept… He was the righteous man who was never wrong, and he was a strict disciplinarian.”

Many people view God as a hateful, vengeful disciplinarian who punishes us because we disappoint Him.  Many get this idea because they grew up with abusive fathers.  This is not the God of the Bible.  God loves and values us more than we can ever imagine.  God’s love is perfect, unlike human love.  The separation between humanity and God is not from God; it is because of our sin and our rejection of Him.  John 3:16-20 explains it like this:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Conclusions

While Young makes several valid points in Lies We Believe About God, he promotes heresy and completely undermines the Gospel in other places.  Young grew up believing a mixed bag of truths and untruths.  In rejecting the untruths, he threw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.  Young correctly rejects the angry, vengeful god in favor of the God of love.  However, in the process, he also rejects the holiness, justice, and sovereignty of God.    He rejects one false gospel by adopting a different false gospel.  He preaches a form of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, not biblical Christianity.  The god of The Shack cannot save anyone.  Paul warned us in Colossians 1:6-9 about false teaching such as this:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The truth is that we are sinners who need to be saved by God’s mercy and grace.  The Good News is that God loves us despite our rebellion against Him, and offers each of us salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, who died in our place, and rose again.  If we repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can have an eternal love relationship with God.  The flip side is that if we do not receive Christ, we do indeed spend eternity separated from God in Hell.  This is not because God hates us, but because we reject God.

The god of The Shack is indeed a ravenous wolf disguised as a benevolent grandmother.  While the book and movie contain wonderful messages of forgiving those who hurt us, forgiving ourselves, and seeking forgiveness from others, it completely misses the truth of receiving forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ.  It offers a false hope in a false gospel, and anyone who embraces this falsehood is accursed to spending eternity without the true forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

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Life is Tough…God is Good

Life is Tough…God is Good

As I have scrolled through my Facebook news feed for the last 24 hours, I have been struck by how tough life is. A good friend of mine has been moved to hospice as a result of complications from a lifetime of smoking. Another friend from childhood is losing a battle with cancer. A young mother from my church is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. My country is being divided by hatred, racism, terrorism, politics, ideology, and greed. Many people struggle to keep a roof over their heads and adequate food on the table. Good jobs are hard to find, and people that have them are in fear of losing them. People struggle with depression, fear, sickness, anger, hopelessness, and death. Life is definitely tough.

Where is God in all of this? It seems most people have given up on God. They see God either as a fairy tale or as uncaring and distant. Even many born-again Christians struggle with the feeling that they cannot live up to God’s expectations and fear that He is unhappy with them and punishing them.

The bad news is that our world is slowly being destroyed by sin. It began in the Garden with Adam and Eve, but like a cancer, it has continued to spread ever since due to the sin of each of us. It’s not God’s fault the world is crumbling; we have brought it on ourselves by our constant rebellion against the God who created everything “very good.” Our collective sin is what has brought on death, disease, poverty, racism, and hatred. And, there is nothing we can do to stop it. We’ve tried legislating morality, but it doesn’t work. We’ve tried religion, irreligion, education, indoctrination, love, hate, freedom, and tyranny, and none of it has done anything to slow the tide of self-destruction that grips our world. We are under a curse (Genesis 3). We’re headed for self-annihilation, and we cannot stop it. Life is tough.

The good news is that God has a plan, and you and I can be part of His plan, if we choose.

LifeIsToughShirtGod is good. Rather than letting us annihilate ourselves, God’s goodness, mercy, and love demanded that He give His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for sin on Himself. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Sin is what has torn us away from our Creator, and sin is what tears us apart from each other. Sin is what has brought on disease, hatred, poverty, racism, and death. Paul again explains that, “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He continues: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Here’s the goodness of God: Despite the fact that we are destroying His creation by our sin, God has already begun the process of restoration. The restoration began with the cross of Jesus Christ. Individually, it begins when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Paul explains in Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” He develops this idea of personal restoration further in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

The goodness of God is not limited to individual restoration, however. The earth and humanity has been cursed because of our sin (Genesis 3). Paul writes, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:21-22). The apostle John explains that the curse will eventually be removed: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4). He continues, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3).

Here’s the deal: For those who continue to reject Jesus Christ, there is no restoration, and no hope. Life stays tough, and eternity is a literal Hell. However, for those of us who turn to Jesus Christ, repent of sin, and make Jesus our Lord and Savior, the process of restoration begins immediately. The goodness of God begins to change us. The process begins immediately, but isn’t complete until we are with Jesus in eternity. God doesn’t want people to become religious or spiritual; He wants a restored relationship with us. God’s goodness has provided the means for restoration through Jesus Christ for all who are willing to receive it.

Life is tough, but God is good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GcBBPbtfoI

Is Christianity a Religion?

Several weeks ago, I asked the question, “Is Atheism a Religion?” My conclusion was that “Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Today I will tackle the question of whether Christianity is a religion. It is my contention that there are, in fact, two distinct forms of Christianity: one form that is a religion, not different from any other religion, and another that is much more than just a religion.

What is religion?

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to first define exactly what religion is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1 a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

In my discussion of Atheism, I identified 8 common traits of religions:

  1. Religions have narratives or texts.
  2. Religions have doctrines.
  3. Religions have faith.
  4. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning.
  5. Religions have rituals.
  6. Religions use symbols.
  7. Religion provides social construct.
  8. Religions proselytize.

Religion is both a set of beliefs about God and a set of practices based on those beliefs. The more religious a person is, the more fervently the set of beliefs and practices is followed.

Two kinds of Christianity

Here we come to the crux of the question: Is Christianity a religion, or is it something more?

I contend that there are, in fact, two distinct kinds of Christianity. There is a form of Christianity that is clearly religion. Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Fundamentalism are all religions. They are all sets of beliefs with accompanying behaviors and practices. Even Christians who are not a part of any organized church or denomination ultimately have a religion. They have a personal set of beliefs and practices.

There is another form of Christianity, however, that goes far beyond the definition of a religion. Consider this passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Verse 27 emphasizes the relationship between Jesus and His followers:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

This goes beyond simply knowing about Jesus; a true follower of Jesus Christ actually knows Him.

I know a lot about the President of the United States. I see him on television and in my Facebook newsfeed nearly every day. I know what he says, and who he is. However, I cannot say I know him. We’ve never even met in person, and even if we had, he wouldn’t remember me from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people he’s met. Compare that to the relationship I have with my wife and kids. I live with them, and I talk with them regularly. I actually know them quite well, and they know me quite well. We have individual, close connections .

So it is with those who truly follow Jesus. We don’t just know about Jesus, we know Him personally. He knows us personally. We don’t just follow a religion; we follow a person that we have actually met, with whom we have a personal relationship.

Consider also these verses from Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Notice that it isn’t the religious people that enter heaven – it’s those who do the will of the Father and whom Jesus knows. What is the “will of the Father?” In the context of the passage, it’s certainly not being religious. Jesus repeatedly saves his harshest criticism for the most religious people in His culture. The will of God is that people would know Him.

How are the two kinds of Christianity different from each other?

Let me give my answer from personal experience. I grew up as a religious Christian. I was in a church service nearly every Sunday. My entire family was active in the church; my dad sang in the choir, and my mom was the Sunday KnowtheAuthorSchool Superintendent. I was active in the youth group – president, my senior year – and went to church camp every summer. I knew a lot about the Bible, God, and Jesus. I participated in fundraisers to help the poor, vacation Bible school, and Bible study classes. Although I knew I did some bad things, I believed my goodness outweighed the bad. I believed, God is love; he accepts us as we are, warts and all.

However, as a college freshman, I realized that this wasn’t enough. Although I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus. And, though I was mostly a good person, I still sinned, and sin separates us from God – it prevents us from knowing Him. I discovered that God is not only a God of love, He is also the God of holiness, justice, and truth. It was then that I changed from the first kind of religious Christianity to the second kind – relationship Christianity. I repented of my sin, and from trying to earn my way to Heaven. I acknowledged that Jesus is God; that He died for my sin, and rose again. And I committed my life to follow Him. God then did an amazing thing. He forgave my sin, and He restored my relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit tool up residence in my heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). I now not only knew about Jesus – I actually came to know Him in a personal way.

This is the difference between the two kinds of Christianity: The first is a religion, no different from any other religion. It has a holy book, doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, like any other religion. Religious Christianity provides social construct and purpose and meaning, as do all religions. Faithful religious Christians proselytize, as do the faithful from all other religions. And, like all other religions, religious Christianity does nothing to restore the relationship with God that has been lost because of human sin. It acknowledges that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross, but does nothing to activate that forgiveness in anyone’s life. It’s sort of like starving to death while looking at a table full of food. Food does no good, unless one actually ingests it. That’s what relationship Christianity is all about: ingesting and applying the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, and beginning a relationship with Him. Yes, those who have a relationship with Jesus also have the Bible, doctrine, and faith. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is the source of our social construct, purpose, and meaning. We proselytize, and although for many of us, rituals and symbols aren’t especially important, we still have them. The key difference is that these things aren’t the foundation – our relationship with Jesus is the foundation.

RelationshipnotreligionIs Christianity a religion? It depends on which kind of Christianity being discussed. It has been claimed that, “Christianity isn’t a religion – it’s a relationship.” I only partially agree with this. A better way of stating this would be, “True Christianity isn’t just a religion – it’s a relationship.” Much of what people know as Christianity is a religion, and is ultimately no different from any other religion. It makes people feel good, and act a certain way, but cannot restore a relationship with God. The other kind of Christianity is a relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. This second kind of Christianity still has most of the marks of religion, but is much, much more than just a religion. Religious Christianity is based on trying to make one’s self acceptable to God, which cannot be done, and ultimately leads to death and Hell. Relationship Christianity is based on what Jesus did, not what we do. We become acceptable before God because Jesus took our sin on Himself. Relationship Christianity restores our connection with our Creator, and leads to eternal life, not Hell.

Application

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference in the world! If you are a religious Christian – you have the doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, etc., but you don’t know Jesus personally – your sins are not forgiven, and you have not had your relationship with God restored. You are headed for Hell. You need to repent of your religiosity, acknowledge that you cannot make yourself acceptable to God, and receive forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is not the same as a relationship. Religion makes people feel good, but leads to Hell. Stop having faith in religion, and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you profess another religion, or no religion at all, you also need Jesus. You may have a wonderful life, but in the end, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell, unless you turn to Jesus.

jesus_talkingIf you know Jesus already, you probably already understand this distinction. Make sure you keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus, not on all the religious stuff that accompanies faith in Jesus. Sure, the “religious” stuff, like reading your Bible, trying to do what is right, giving to the poor, and regularly attending corporate worship are important, they are no substitute for developing your relationship with Jesus. When you share your faith in Jesus with others, they will often think Christianity is no different from any other religion. In a sense, they are right – most of what they have seen is the religious Christianity, not relationship Christianity. Make the distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the relationship. Both exist, but only one leads to eternal life.

One final thought: the two kinds of Christianity are usually mixed together in any given church or denomination. That is, in most solid, Bible-believing churches, there are some that don’t actually know Jesus, along with those that do. There are also Christians who truly know Jesus in some very religious churches. Knowing Jesus isn’t a matter of whether one belongs to the right or wrong denomination or church.

If you want to know more about knowing Jesus, leave a comment, or send me a message. I’d love to tell you more.

What Do I Actually Believe? Part 1 of 3

A Facebook friend recently posted a link to this article by blogger Tiffany Willis, editor-in-chief of the website liberalamerica.org.

I have seldom seen such a collection of ad hominem attacks and straw-man arguments crammed into a single rant. Misrepresenting the views of others in this manner simply to argue for your own view is fallacious and divisive. It leads to arguments rather than positive dialog. If Americans actually want to get along, we need to understand what others actually believe, rather than caricatures and misrepresentations.

As a libertarian-leaning, evangelical conservative, I’d like to go through each point of this rant to explain how what I actually believe is quite different from the caricature Willis paints of conservative views. While the views I express are mine alone, they are reasonably representative of what most of my conservative friends believe. Not every conservative will agree with every point, however. I hope that this will lead to better understanding of what many conservatives actually believe, and can lead to productive dialog rather than ignorant rants.

Ms. Willis lists 28 reasons why she’s done talking to most of her conservative friends and family members. Her list is more than I care to address in a single chunk, so here are the first 10, along with some of her comments, and my responses:

1. You support revisionist history.

When I was in a high school history class, I’ll never forget one thing our teacher taught us: what you read in history books isn’t always accurate. The example she used was history books in the Soviet Union, now known as Russia. She informed us, to my shock and horror, that the Soviets pretty much included what they liked in the history books and left out everything else. As a result, she said, there were generations of Russian students who were misinformed.

Oh we were dismayed, my classmates and I! Those poor little Russian kids who were being taught false history. But wait….you guys on the right are trying to do the same thing right here in the Good Old U.S.A.

I certainly do not support revisionist history. The evils of slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the civil rights movement all should be covered in history classes. However, so should the role of historyChristianity in the formation of the United States and the fact that it was mostly Democrats who supported slavery and opposed civil rights for Blacks. Revisionist history is a two-way street. Considering that the public education system in the United States is primarily run by far-left-leaning organizations such as the NEA would support that history is being revised to support liberal ideology far more than to support conservative ideology. The best way to teach history is to go back to source documents, then present both sides of the issues, rather than simply indoctrinating students with revisionist malarkey.

2. You cite Jesus as your reasoning for rejecting marriage equality.

Yet the Bible only mentions homosexuality six times. Six. Times. 6. This many:

SixFingers

So why is this one of the biggest issues on your agenda? Why are you putting so much energy and hate into an issue that clearly wasn’t one of God’s major concerns?

As Christians who are pro-family, why would you deny people the right to the sanctity of marriage? If marriage strengthens families, why would you not want everyone to have this, even if you disagree with their choice of mate?

YOU (we) have destroyed the sanctity of marriage. There is no possible way that gay marriage can do more harm to marriage than heterosexuals have done. Yet we seldom hear a sermon bemoaning the divorce rate or people living together before marriage. Why is that? Because the pews would be empty.

First, the number of times the Bible mentions something is irrelevant. The Bible’s teaching on the subject is very clear: practicing homosexuality is sin.

Second, the main reason gay marriage is so high on the list of discussion topics for conservative Christians is because it’s so high on the list of discussion topics for others. The issue is being forced on Christians, so Christians are responding.

Third, disagreeing with homosexuality and calling it sin is not “hate.” The term “hate” is so misused today that it has become almost meaningless. Disagreement and opposition do not equal hate. I want people to understand that homosexuality is sin because I want them to turn from sin and be saved. I don’t want people to go to Hell. Wanting people to come to know Jesus is not hate. True, some professing Christians hate gays. However, doing so is completely inconsistent with clear Biblical teaching.

Fourth, it is precisely the sanctity of marriage we are defending. Marriage is between one man and one woman, not because we say it is, but because that’s how God clearly defined it. Biblically speaking, gay marriage doesn’t exist. Calling a gay relationship a marriage doesn’t make it a marriage, any more than calling a cat a dog makes it a dog.

Fifth, I mostly agree with her last point: Divorce and adultery have destroyed the sanctity of marriage. It is precisely because most of the church has compromised on divorce and adultery that homosexuality and other perversions are being accepted by people who profess to be Christian. It is the abandonment of Biblical values that is eroding morality in American culture.

3. You use Biblical scripture to excuse yourself from feeding the hungry.

There is nothing you do that makes me more disgusted with you than your abuse and misuse of 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

You are deliberately taking the scripture — ONE VERSE! — out of context when you use them to justify your own hatred of poor people. And again, you’re showing your ignorance.

First – there are many passages that talk about working and laziness, not just one. The book of Proverbs is loaded with them. The argument that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is only referring to Christians who stopped working in anticipation of Christ’s return is not supported by the text. Don’t take my word for it; look it up for yourself in context.

Second – the passages of scripture that discuss helping the poor and disabled are always directed at the church or individuals – NEVER the secular government. Using the Bible out-of-context to try to support government entitlement programs is a misrepresentation of God’s Word. In the United States, Christians have always led the way when it comes to helping the poor. There are numerous Christian-based food pantries, food lines, education centers, hospitals, and support groups for the needy. I’m only aware of a handful from atheists and other religions.

Third, nobody I know, conservative or otherwise, is opposed to helping the truly needy. The issue is identifying who is truly needy, and how to help them. Many liberals seem to think most people are needy, and believe the best way to help them is for the government to give them stuff. Conservative tend to believe that we need to help the most needy – the elderly, the disabled, and orphans, for example. There are others who are physically able to work, but don’t have jobs. The government should support the truly needy, with the assistance of the private sector. The government needs to work with the private sector to grow the economy in order to provide jobs to the able-bodied, not long-term handouts. Give the unemployed temporary assistance until they can get jobs, absolutely! But also, help the private sector – especially small businesses – create well-paying jobs. Private-sector jobs are by far the best way to end poverty!

Last, statistics show that there have always been far more Christian charities helping the hungry than non-Christian charities. Don’t insult me by telling me I don’t care about feeding the hungry. You don’t know what you’re talking about. My Eagle Scout service project was to organize a food drive to restock a small food pantry. My church supports a food pantry around the corner from the church building. When I was unemployed, people from my church brought us food. Claiming that conservative Christians don’t care about the hungry is ignorant.

worldvision

4. You lie when you say you value “freedom of religion.”

I had lunch with some conservatives a while back, and the topic of freedom of religion came up. They expressed concern at the “war on Christianity.” I cited a recent event that had occurred in which protesters interrupted the U.S. Senate’s first Hindu-led prayer. The response from my fellow diners? “Good.” I don’t know how educated people can be so ignorant. Seriously. You can’t even see your own contradictions.

While I would agree that there are some conservatives that only value freedom of religion for Christianity, most of us support freedom for all religions.

firstamendmentPlease don’t misunderstand – I am certainly not arguing that all religions are equally true. Jesus said, ““I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I believe that the only true religion is a relationship with God through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All other religions, philosophies, and worldviews lead to Hell. What I am saying is that while I believe most religion is in error, I will defend a person’s right to believe what they wish under the Constitution of the United States. Religious freedom is a sort of two-way street. If the government can impede the free exercise of religions I find abhorrent, there is nothing to prevent government from impeding the free exercise of Biblical Christianity. In the United States, if someone wants to be Muslim, or Mormon, or worship a sacred rock, or claim they worship nothing at all, it should be their right to worship, either publicly or privately, as they see fit, as long as those beliefs and practices don’t harm someone else.

And, seriously, I don’t understand how an educated person like Willis can’t see her own contradictions, either.

5. You claim God speaks to you and tells you to do things.

Over and over and over, we see right wing nutjobs in the news saying they’re doing this horrible thing or that horrible thing because God told them to…But conservatives believe these nuts. Here is what I think: not only should sensible conservatives not believe these nuts, you need to start speaking out against them. These are the false prophets that the Bible warns us about, in my humble opinion. Most of you lack the courage to take a stand against these idiots even when you know they’re nuts.

First, religious “nutjobs” are certainly not all conservatives. How many crazies do things to protect their “Mother Earth?” Recently, when Craig Stephen Hicks gunned down 3 Muslims in a dispute over a parking spot, the liberal media was quick to condemn him as a religious conservative nutjob – until it was revealed that he’s actually a liberal militant atheist. Suddenly, the liberal media isn’t talking about the incident at all.

While I do believe God speaks to His followers through the Holy Spirit, Christians are instructed to “test the spirits” to determine if it is actually God speaking, or a demonic voice. The voice of God will never contradict the clear teaching of Scripture.

I agree with Willis on this point: the Bible clearly warns of false prophets. However, Willis seems to have no clue what makes a person a “false prophet.” I believe that anyone teaching anything that contradicts the clear teaching of westborothe Bible is a false prophet. This would include all non-Christian religious teachers, as well as “Christian” teachers that deny any part of the Bible as anything other than the inspired Word of God. I also agree with Willis of this point: “Most of you lack the courage to take a stand against these idiots even when you know they’re nuts.” Far too many people, from all ideologies, refuse to speak out against evil. The liberal media was quick to denounce Hicks for murdering Muslims, until they found out he’s a liberal atheist. Many Christians won’t take a stand against other Christians, and those that do are usually severely criticized for being “divisive.” For example, most conservatives vehemently oppose the likes of Westboro Baptist Church and Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ. However, many are also slow to publicly condemn them, and when they do, the liberal media tends to ignore it.

Most conservative Christians do not claim they do things because they heard voices telling them to do so. We base our beliefs on the written Bible. It’s the liberals who tend to base their beliefs on whatever passing fancy is in vogue at the time, on the “voices” of popular opinion.

6. You question my faith.

“Christian Left is an oxymoron.”

Oh my, I’ve heard that so much from the right, and believe it or not, I often hear it from my “friends.” First of all, your questioning of my faith genuinely means very little to me. What it does is destroy my opinion of you; I now view you as self-righteous hypocrites… Keep questioning my faith, though, my people, because you can be sure I’m questioning yours. One thing I won’t do, however, is accuse you of not being a believer as you do me. What I will suggest to you is that my faith may be stronger than yours. I’ve educated myself, dared to question all things, and STILL believe. Most of you are too afraid to even learn. It may, after all, test your faith.

Do I question people’s faith? Sure, I do. I know that it doesn’t matter how much faith a person has, if that faith is placed in anything other than Jesus Christ. I know that people will burn in Hell for eternity, unless they place their way_truth_lifefaith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). The Bible says we will know people’s faith by their fruit. If a person truly has a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, their words and actions will begin to mirror the teaching of Scripture. If a person’s words and actions continue to contradict the clear teaching of the Bible, it is completely appropriate to question their salvation.

I find it interesting that Willis denounces people who question her faith as self-righteous hypocrites, yet then states, “Keep questioning my faith, though, my people, because you can be sure I’m questioning yours.” Doesn’t that make her a self-righteous hypocrite as well?

Willis then states that her faith is stronger than a conservative’s faith because she’s educated herself and questioned her beliefs. She claims conservatives are “afraid to even learn.” This is nothing more than a baseless ad hominem attack. I have news for Willis: Conservative evangelical Christians are just as willing to study and learn as she is; we question our beliefs, and grow as we learn. It is because I questioned my beliefs that I became a follower of Jesus Christ in the first place. It is because I studied the Bible that I came to believe it is the inspired Word of God. It is because I continue to examine myself daily that I continue to grow in my relationship with God and in my understanding and beliefs. Those of you who have been following this blog since I began it three years ago have probably noticed changes in the types of things I write about, and subtle shifts in ideology. That’s due to growth.

For Willis to claim that only liberals question themselves, educate themselves, and grow in faith is nonsense. For her to accuse conservatives of hypocrisy for questioning her faith, while she questions the faith of conservatives, is self-righteous hypocrisy. The fact that we find your beliefs to be false doesn’t mean we’re uneducated or afraid to learn. It means we have different beliefs and have come to different conclusions.

So, yes, I question her faith. I question everyone’s faith. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian will enter Heaven. Unfortunately, many will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you.” I even question my own beliefs on a regular basis. I no longer question my belief in Jesus as Savior, because I’ve had it confirmed repeatedly. But, I do question my beliefs on specific issues, and regularly adjust my thinking to conform more closely with Biblical teaching.

7. You care more about your guns than you do about children.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, and following other similar tragedies, I asked many of you if you loved your guns more than you do children. I made the statement of “I’d give up my gun forever if it would bring back even one of those children.” I asked you if you’d do the same. You admitted that you would not.

This is an absolutely ridiculous claim. First of all, it’s an example of the fallacy of the false dilemma. The argument is framed as either A) you love guns, or B) you love children. In reality, this isn’t an either/or issue. Supporting gun rights has nothing to do with loving children. There are some very good arguments that support the position that armed-teachersarming teachers would actually prevent tragedies such as Sandy Hook.

This argument is also little more than an appeal to emotions. Willis gives no facts to support her position; rather, she appeals to the emotions of her readers: “It’s for the children.” How can anyone oppose children?

Lastly, the question, “if giving up guns could bring back even one of the Sandy Hook children, would you do it,” is purely hypothetical. It’s also an example of a complex question fallacy. If the person answers yes, they support gun restrictions. If they answer no, they hate children. In reality, there is no way to bring back a dead child. The question is not based in reality. It’s a carefully constructed fallacious question for which there is no correct answer. It’s a lot like asking, “Do you still hate your mother.” Answer yes, you admit you once hated your mother. Answer no, you admit you still hate your mother. It leaves no room for the fact that you never hated your mother. The question Willis asks leaves no option for the perfectly rational belief that widespread gun ownership actually prevents gun violence. Passing laws making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to own guns will do nothing to keep criminals from getting guns illegally, since criminals generally don’t follow laws in the first place.

8. You get excited about people dying.

You really, really like to see death. And not just to terrorists. You love the death penalty. You love war. You love seeing kids like Trayvon Martin being shot. They deserve it, you say. But his murderer has shown — again and again — since his acquittal that he is a dangerous person.

Wow. How do I even respond to such a stupid, ignorant, hateful statement?

Willis is incredibly hypocritical for calling conservatives out for supporting the death penalty and war, while she herself supports abortion, which has killed far more people than all of the wars and death penalty executions combined.

Conservatives hate death just as much as liberals do. We hate wars, murder, and abortion. The main difference between liberals and conservatives on the issues of war and the death penalty is that we see them as sometimes being necessary evils. War is, unfortunately, sometimes necessary to stop evil people from doing evil. Imagine what might have happened differently if military action had been taken against Hitler in 1935, when Hitler ignored the Versailles Treaty and ordered Germany to re-arm? Or, if the United States had gotten involved in World War II against Germany in 1939, rather than waiting until after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor? Would ISIS be a serious threat today in the Middle East and elsewhere if Obama had kept American troops in Iraq instead of pulling them when he did?

The Bible teaches that humans were created in the image of God. All human life is sacred. Death is the penalty for sin, and we all have sinned. We all die. The only questions are when we will die, where we will die, how we will die, and where we go afterward. As a Christian, I oppose abortion, war, and murder. Although I hate war, I understand that it is sometimes necessary in a fallen world. Although I hate death, I see the death penalty as just punishment for committing murder. We don’t like the death penalty, but see it as regrettably necessary for justice.

No, we don’t like seeing kids like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown being shot. However, we also don’t immediately assume they were the victims because of their ethnicity. We don’t immediately jump to the conclusion the shootings were racially motivated. We wait to see what the facts turn out to be, and if the facts warrant it, fully support the prosecution and conviction of the assailants in a court of law. In the cases of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the conflicting evidence made determining innocence or guilt extremely difficult. I personally believe that both Martin and George Zimmerman made mistakes that led to Martin’s death. I agree with Willis in that Zimmerman has since been shown to be a danger to society, and in retrospect, there is good reason to believe he was probably the aggressor. However, the evidence wasn’t strong enough to warrant a conviction at the time. In the case of Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson, again, both parties made serious mistakes that led to Brown’s death. Brown was a thug who had just robbed a store and attacked a police officer. Wilson was an incompetent officer who allowed himself to be put in a dangerous situation, and then panicked.

The claim that conservatives “get excited about people dying” is a baseless ad hominem attack. It is a complete misrepresentation of conservative beliefs. It is a hateful smear, and reprehensible.

9. You assume that everyone who needs help are losers and parasites who refuse to work.

Approximately 47 million people receive food stamps, and most of them are children or the elderly, in addition to people who are employed. The numbers, from a 2012 USDA report:

  • 45 percent of SNAP recipients are under 18 years of age

  • Nine percent are age 60 or older

  • More than 40 percent live in households with earnings

Again, this is a baseless ad hominem attack. Willis makes a claim, and offers no evidence whatsoever that it is true. Her entire argument on this point is to quote statistics about food stamp recipients.

As I stated in point #2 above, many needy people are truly needy. Very few conservatives are opposed to helping the disabled, the elderly, or orphans. We also recognize that many able-bodied, hard-working Americans need temporary assistance while looking for work. What we are opposed to is institutionalized long-term handouts to people who can and should be working.

While the statistics Willis quotes are true, they don’t really support her claim that conservatives assume anything.

Food-Stamps-YearlyIn fact, what most conservatives believe is that liberalism is one of the primary causes of poverty in America. An important statistic Willis leaves out of her discussion is the fact that the number of SNAP recipients has nearly doubled under the Obama administration. Conservatives generally do not oppose SNAP or other assistance programs; rather, we oppose the liberal economic policies that have made more widespread assistance a necessity. The decline in unemployment is not due to more people having jobs; it is due to people giving up on finding work. Annual median household income has dropped every year under Obama, according to the US Census Bureau, to a level not seen since 1995, and workforce participation rates have dropped to their lowest levels since the late 1970s. Conservatives, including myself, believe that liberal policies are the reason for these statistics.

Workforce ParticipationI believe that liberal politicians have an economic policy that is designed to deliberately force more middle-class citizens into poverty, while blaming the Republicans. As more people become impoverished, liberals then give them handouts, and take credit for helping the very people their policies hurt in the first place. The end result is more people voting for Democratic candidates, because they have been duped into believing liberal politicians actually care about them. I do NOT believe that everyday liberal citizens believe this is right. I don’t even think they have any idea how liberal economic policies actually work, and if they did, they’d be appalled. And, honestly, I don’t think the Republicans are much better.

I was unemployed for the end of 2012 and most of 2013. Although I was grateful for the government assistance I received during my unemployment, I would much rather have had a job. I blame the Obama administration’s economic policies for making it so difficult to find another job. After 10 months of unemployment, I was forced to take a position in a different industry and occupation than I had previously worked, with a 39% drop in income from my previous job. Again, I blame liberal economic policies for stifling small business growth, which has decreased the number of available jobs, and dropped hourly wages.

Along with most conservatives, I fully support long-term government assistance for the truly needy, as well as temporary assistance for able-bodied workers who can’t find a job. We oppose policies that make it more difficult for small businesses to grow and create more jobs, as well as policies that encourage multi-generational poverty and government dependence for people who can work, but won’t. We do NOT assume all people on assistance are lazy parasites – but, some are, and they need to be encouraged to work their way out of poverty, not given handouts to gain votes.

10. You weren’t concerned about uninsured people– including me.

… I didn’t want a free ride. I was eager to pay for my own insurance. Obamacare opened that door for me and millions of other hard-working Americans and disallows insurance companies from rejecting millions of Americans who were previously rejected. But without even knowing fully what the Affordable Care Act is, you chose the path of ignorance. You didn’t care.

Again, this is a complete misrepresentation of what most conservatives believe. We believe health insurance should be made affordable for all Americans. We also believe Obamacare is an asinine way to accomplish this.

While Obamacare has made health insurance more affordable for the poor and self-employed, costs have skyrocketed for the working middle-class. Mine have gone up significantly. The plan I was on last year was eliminated by my employed, and I was forced onto a plan with much higher deductibles and premiums.

Most conservatives understand that Obamacare has little to do with health insurance, but rather is a scheme to redistribute wealth from the middle and upper classes to the poor.

Two of the main forces driving up medical costs are malpractice insurance and drug costs. Many conservatives, including myself, believe the way to make health care more affordable to everyone, including the poor, would be to limit malpractice lawsuits, and limit patents to drug companies. Obamacare does neither of these, and in fact has driven both costs up even further. Eliminating frivolous malpractice lawsuits and multi-million-dollar payouts would drive down malpractice insurance costs, and limiting drug patents would open drug manufacturing up to competition, driving down costs.

As for opposing Obamacare before we even knew what is was, it was Nancy Pelosi who famously declared, “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”

It isn’t that conservatives aren’t concerned about the uninsured – we are. We just believe Obamacare is a stupid way of dealing with the issue.

 

Items 11-20 and 21-28 of Willis’ list will be addressed in future blogs.

Do not take the name of the Lord in vain

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me10 Commandments
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Third Commandment says:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

curse_bubbleTaking the name of God in vain is more than using it as a curse word. Any time we use God’s name flippantly or disrespectfully, we use it in vain. Jesus restated the Third Commandment by flipping it around: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9, NKJV).

Why does God care if we use His name in vain?

God’s desire is to have a loving relationship with us. In relationships, when we show disrespect for the other person, it interferes with that relationship. When we use the name of God or Jesus in a disrespectful manner, it interferes with our ability to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that we were created to have. Taking God’s name in vain doesn’t change how God thinks about us; it affects how we think of God. It reflects disregard and indifference on our part toward God. When we use God’s name in vain, it inhibits our ability to love Him the way we should.

What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?

Names of GodIn the Hebrew, there are four consonants used to spell God’s name. In English we see them as YHWH. We pronounce them as Jehovah or Yahweh. We also use many other names for God: Jesus, Lord, Savior, Father, Christ, and so forth. The Bible actually lists over 300 titles for God, many of which are commonly used as names. Using God’s name “in vain” means using it in any way that is disrespectful, false, or trivial. We can do this by using it as a curse word. We can also use His name in vain by claiming God says something that contradicts or isn’t supported by the Bible. An example that’s getting considerable attention right now is the claim that God thinks homosexuality is acceptable to Him. This belief is clearly and repeatedly refuted by the Bible, yet many people, even Christians, claim it’s true. Invoking the name of God in an attempt to justify sin is using God’s name in vain. We also use God’s name in vain when we make false promises, such as “I swear to God that I’ll do such-and-such.” When we do this, we are lying in the name of God, and using His name flippantly. There are any number of variations on using God’s name in vain, far too many to describe in depth in a brief blog. The point it, we all at least occasionally use God’s name disrespectfully, falsely, or irreverently. We all have missed the mark of the Third Commandment.

What is the consequence for taking God’s name in vain?

“…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

As with any sin, taking the name of God in vain interferes in our ability to love God. It separates us from Him. It does not change God’s attitude toward us, but rather, changes our attitude toward God. For those who have never placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, sin prevents them from knowing God and from spending eternity in His presence. For those of us who have been saved, it interrupts our fellowship with Him. Using God’s name in vain reflects disrespect for God in our hearts, and the consequence is broken fellowship with Him.

What can we do about it?

VainFirst, if a person has never received forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, never been saved, and never made Jesus Christ Lord of their life, that’s the place to start. Everyone has sinned, and the only way for God to forgive is by our receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

For those of us who are saved, we need to begin by cultivating a love and reverence for God’s name. We need to grow in our relationship with Him. We need to value God’s holiness and give God the respect He is due. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we will begin to respect and revere the name of God and the name of Jesus. Taking the name of the Lord in vain will become the exception rather than the rule. Although we will never obey this commandment (or any other, for that matter) perfectly this side of Heaven, as we grow closer to Jesus, our sinful tendencies will become less and less.

 

The Ten Commandments

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20:

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

  6. You shall not murder.

  7. You shall not commit adultery.

  8. You shall not steal.

  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

10CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments are only a small fraction of all of the commandments given in the Old Testament. In all, there are 613 commandments, covering topics including how to worship God, giving to the poor, sexual relationships, getting along with others, and many other things.

If we can’t keep them, why did God give them?

Contrary to what many people believe, the Ten Commandments are not a set of rules which, if followed, will gain a person entrance into heaven. Rather, they were given to make people realize they cannot possibly live up to God’s perfect standard.

The Apostle Paul said the following:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11).

Nobody can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Rather than being a means of salvation, the Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and all need God’s mercy and grace, which only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Even with a cursory glance, it’s pretty obvious that nobody can keep all ten commandments perfectly. I don’t know anyone who never dishonored their parents a single time, never stole anything (not even a cookie or a pencil), and never lied – not even a “little white lie.” God doesn’t grade us on the curve. He demands a passing grade of a perfect 100%. As James wrote, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” The point of the Ten Commandments is to show us that none of us can live a sinless life. This is why we need a Savior. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The Ten Commandments cannot save us. Only Jesus can save us.

10 Commandments

Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy

philUnless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ve probably heard about the “indefinite suspension” of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” television show over comments he made about homosexuals in an interview with GQ Magazine. Duck Dynasty supporters flooded social media sites with calls to boycott A&E. Cracker Barrel Restaurants began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from its shelves, then reversed their decision following backlash from Duck Dynasty supporters. The saga continues as I write this.

Regardless of what Christians think about Duck Dynasty or Phil Robertson’s suspension, there are several things we can learn from the incident.

Christians should expect opposition when they stand up for Biblical Christianity.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

John 15:18-21

It really should come as no surprise that when a highly visible Christian publicly stands up for his or her faith in Jesus Christ, and takes a stand on Biblical values, that they will face intense opposition. Those who hate God also hate anyone who publicly proclaims the Gospel. They will watch for Christians to slip up, then pounce at the opportunity to attack. Phil Robertson is a godly man who takes God’s Word seriously, and is unashamed to bluntly speak his mind about his beliefs. Although his comments in the GQ article were rather crudely stated, they were based on his belief in the Bible. The truth is offensive to those who oppose it. Christians have been persecuted for their faith since Biblical times, and are increasingly persecuted today. This is precisely what Jesus told us would happen.

Christians should speak the truth despite opposition

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

When Christians proclaim God’s Word despite opposition, they are blessed by God. This does not necessarily mean they will be rewarded with material blessings in this life, however. As Christians, we understand that many – if not most – of God’s blessings will ultimately be received in Heaven. As Peter wrote:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 Peter 3:14-16

Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed redneck. He lacks the background and knowledge to make eloquent theological statements or carefully devised arguments. However, he does not let this prevent him from proclaiming the Gospel. His redneck language is sometimes a bit crass, but Phil is sold out for Jesus, and shares the Gospel to the best of his ability at every opportunity. And, he knows his Bible, quoting or paraphrasing to answer those who ask about his faith. This is exactly what all Christians are called to do.

Those who speak of “tolerance” are often the most intolerant of all.

It strikes me as sadly ironic that those who demand tolerance of their views are often the least tolerant of opposing views. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to tolerate means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Much of the LGBT community actively demands tolerance for their views and acceptance of their lifestyle, yet vehemently opposes anyone who disagrees with them. Christians are expected to tolerate homosexuality; yet, our belief – based on the clear teaching of the Bible – that homosexuality is sin cannot be tolerated. Disagreement is labeled “hateful,” and Christians are hated because they are alleged to be “haters.” The hypocrisy of those who preach “tolerance” is appalling, although Christians shouldn’t be surprised. Those who oppose God cannot have a logically consistent worldview, because their foundational beliefs do no correspond with reality.

Taking a stand for righteousness can make a difference in this world

crackerbarrelOne interesting side story revolves around Cracker Barrel restaurants. Shortly after A&E announced that Phil Robertson had been kicked off of Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from their stores. The backlash from Christians supporting Duck Dynasty was immediate and overwhelming. As a result, Cracker Barrel reversed their position, apologized, and restocked Duck Dynasty products, citing the letters, emails, and comments on social media as the reason. When Christians unite, we can make a difference. However, we also need to keep in mind that the battle is God’s, not ours, and that we need to focus on leading people to Christ, not on temporary issues like a television show. Christians need to have the same passion for sharing Jesus and defending the Gospel as we did for defending Phil Robertson. It is only by changing individuals’ hearts that we can turn the culture back to God.