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Copyright © 2007, 2008 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

December 5, 2007

Jesus is the Ruler!!!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the specifics of a passage, we miss the big picture it is trying to paint. This is possibly true of Colossians 1:13-20. Paul is attempting to teach Christians a lesson about Christ. That lesson: Jesus is the ruler over all things. From his reference to a kingdom (which requires a king to rule it) to his application of the title firstborn, Paul is telling us that Christ is our monarch. If we intentionally (and respectfully) swap out the numerous nuanced and varied ways that Paul calls Jesus a ruler with that actual word, "ruler," we get the big picture that Paul intended. It hit me with the same emotional impact as I have experienced when walking into a 3-D cinemax film.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the rulership of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the ruler of all creation. For by [in] Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether rulers or rulers or rulers or rulers--all things have been created through Him and for Him [to rule]. He is ruler of all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also ruler of the body, the church; and He is the ruler, the ruler from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have rulership in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:13-20)

Jesus is the ruler of all things spiritual and corporeal. I think I get it.

 

December 11, 2007

Choose This Day: Selfishness or Love

(Understanding Paulís Desire to Trade His Salvation for Those of the Jews--Romans 9:3)

Just a few weeks ago a friend and his family came to visit for a day. What a blessing! During that visit we talked on theology for uncounted hours (did I mention what a blessing!). Somewhere during the course of that day, he asked me if I was going to post additional articles on Christian Hedonism. I told him that due to my being behind schedule on multiple other projects, and frankly, a waning desire to invest further time researching that philosophy, that I would not be writing on it any time in the foreseeable future. Who knew that "not in the foreseeable future" extends but a few scant weeks?

Having come to my attention that Dr. Piper has posted a blog response to a question that has nagged at many Christ-centered believers familiar with his philosophy books, I felt putting down a few thoughts might be edifying to others and glorifying to God. Dr. Piper wrote a blog entitled "Damned for the Beloved?" (http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/932_damned_for_the_beloved). I think it admirable that he addresses such a concern that has been nipping at the heels of Desiring God all these decades.

In that posting, he states the following,

"Sometimes Romans 9:3 is put forward as the Achilles heel of Christian Hedonism. Is a Christian Hedonist willing to be damned for those he loves?"

This opening premise is incorrect, and may actually incite some to be misdirected. Paulís desire to trade away his own eternal life if that would buy the salvation of his Israeli kinsmen is not the "Achilles heel" of Christian Hedonism. The real fault and fatal flaw of Christian Hedonism is that its core premise is without biblical footing. Romans 9:3 is but one evidence of that primary fault. The core premise of Christian Hedonism comes from the book, Desiring God, and from articles quoted from desiringgod.org:

"a living for pleasure." That is precisely what I mean by it. If the chief end of man is to enjoy God forever, human life should be a "living for pleasure." Ö

It is a general term to cover a wide variety of teachings which have elevated pleasure very highly. Ö

I would be happy with the following definition as a starting point for my own usage of the word: Hedonism is "a theory according to which a person is motivated to produce one state of affairs in preference to another if and only if he thinks it will be more pleasant, or less unpleasant for himself." (Piper, Desiring God, emphasis added)

"By Christian hedonism Ö I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our happiness. But all Christians believe this. Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon pursuit of your own joy you cannot please God." (Piper, quoted from www.desiringgod.org on May 29, 2003, emphasis in original)

A living for pleasure, a maximizing of oneís own personal pleasure for himself, is the core premise of Christian Hedonism. (For additional similar quotes, please continue reading here: http://thefaithfulword.org/chfaqs.html#Q1 ). Christian Hedonism instructs that the means of maximizing this pleasure is through an intentional pursuit of that pleasure in God, a notion which C.S. Lewis thoroughly disdained (http://thefaithfulword.org/chfaqspage2.html#Q33 ).

Of course, Paulís lament that he could not trade away his everlasting joy in heaven for the salvation for his kinsmen is not the only time such a trade was offered. Moses too attempted to give away his own portion if only God would forgive the sins of his kinsmen--Exodus 30:30-32 ( http://thefaithfulword.org/2006julyblogarchives.html#26 subsection entitled: Sacrificial Loving in the Extreme).

Piper, in his blog, correctly points out that our desire for our own joy of heaven becomes contemptible selfish shame if it is given higher priority than ensuring that our loved ones experience that joy. Exactly! Only the word "selfishness" begins to address the evil which would account for the desire to secure oneís own salvation if it meant the damnation of our most beloved soul-mateís.

However, Piper strays into a relativistic mist of logical and moral confusion immediately thereafter. He postulates that if he were to actually carry out the trade that Paul and Moses attempted to offer, giving his wife his own place in heaven, that he would be bursting with joy over her even as he burned in hell, concluding that "Heavenís joy would be in hell. Which means that heaven would not be heaven, and hell would not be hell."

That very conclusion violates everything that I have ever read in support of Christian Hedonism. Our pleasure, Christian Hedonism teaches, is supposed to be "in God," or that is, from being in the presence of God and having a living relationship with Him. That relationship is our greatest joy. Yet, if one were to be in Hell, there is no relationship with God, and no "heavenís joy" regardless of the deeds we have done, for no joy could possibly exist. By stating that it is contemptible selfishness to claim your spot in heaven if it meant having to send your wife to hell, Piper has nicely illustrated that genuine love (doing good for God and for others, often at your own expense) and not Christian Hedonism (pursuing your own pleasure) is the true motive for Christian service.

Far from validating the philosophy of Christian Hedonism, by his own admission in the hypothetical illustration, the choice of attaining maximum joy by choosing to be in the presence of God would have been shameful, contemptible, and selfish, thus disproving the core premise of Christian Hedonism. Pleasure is not our greatest motive, not even theoretically, but seeking to give love to others and to God, is. I wonder, why is it that the biblical doctrine called "pursue love" and the biblical commandments on which it is founded (give love to God and others as our highest priorities--Mark 12:28-31), why are they so difficult to accept?

 

December 20, 2007

Life is Too Big for Me

This morning the thought came to me again, "I see no way to accomplish it all, life is too big for me." By this I mean that I cannot cause those to whom I am presently delivering the gospel to believe, I cannot demand an estranged loved one to return to fellowship, I cannot by force of my will cause others to abandon unsound extra-biblical philosophies though try as I might to be winsome and persuasive, and I cannot guarantee that one day my personal earthly goals will ever be achieved. Life is too big for me.

As usual, God answered my thoughts through His Word.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

"And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. (Luke 12:25-36)

God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is control of all things. He does not ask me to determine the outcomes of anything. He requires only that I do what He asks. No, I cannot accomplish it all, in fact, I cannot accomplish even the little things, but God will if He wills.

Controlling life is too big for me, but living life is what He has empowered me to do. And as I do so obediently and gratefully, He will add to His treasury in heaven the souls which He has predestined, and there too will be my heart.

 

December 24, 2007

Immanuel -- A Conspiracy?

Those who know me well, know that I am not fond of the greeting, "Merry Christmas." Over the years I have become even less fond of the efforts to take Christ out of the holidays, and to rob Jesus of His headship and Lordship over the church and the Earth.

This morning I was researching the title, "Immanuel." According to the Greek from which we translate our English New Testament, Immanuel means, "the God with us," in the sense of "the God in our midst" or "the God among us." This sense of "with" meaning "among us" is seen clearly in other verses where the same word meta (with) is used: 2 John 1:2, 1 John 2:19, and Luke 24:29.

Yet, as I contemplated that God was genuinely living among us 2000 years ago, I came upon Isaiah 8:11-16. My Jehovahís Witnesses friends have persistently said to me, "Christendom has been engaged for 2000 years in a conspiracy to promote Jesus to be the Almighty." Yet, the fascinating thing about Isaiah 8:11-16 is that it calls YHWH (Jehovah) the rock to stumble over (stumbling stone or rock of offense). And it states that He will also become a sanctuary.

For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, "You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; but to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken; they will even be snared and caught." Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. (Isaiah 8:11-16)

As is made clear by Scripture, Jesus (the God among us) came quite literally as that very "stumbling stone" and "rock of offense." Since Jehovah claims for Himself that title, then it can only mean that the God who came to live among us must be Jehovah.

just as it is written, "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (Romans 9:33)

And coming to Him [Jesus] as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone," and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (1 Peter 2:4-8)

And it is both the Father and the Son who will become the final sanctuary, the temple made without hands, when earth is finally destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth are created and the New Jerusalem is established.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22)

There has never been a conspiracy to promote Jesus as Jehovah (Jehovah being the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God has been patiently showing us through His Word that He is only one God, and that He would come to save us, and that He will one day be our final sanctuary. Jesus, the Lamb, the Son, the Rock, is Jehovah. May God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) bring us all to Himself.

Have a Blessed Christmas, and a productive New Year for His Kingdom! OK, fine, Iíll say, it, "MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

 

 

Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 -- The Year of Your Ministry

What is a ministry? In the New Testament a ministry is any intentional practice a believer exercises to further the gospel by: lending assistance to other believers with monetary gifts or manual labor, encouraging the saints in word or action, teaching, or handing out the good news of the gospel to the unsaved.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:1-9)

As I sit here on New Yearsís eve, with 2008 about to begin, it weighs on my heart to encourage all the saints to make it their ambition and goal to begin a ministry in the upcoming year. For those to whom the Lord has already given a ministry, then I would echo Paulís words to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it" (Colossians 4:17b). But to those who are not yet engaged in ministry, this is the time, this is the year! You have been given the gifts by the Holy Spirit to advance His kingdom. Do not let hardship or discouragement stop you (2 Timothy 4:5)!

If you cannot get a handle on what your ministry might be, I would ask you to read the entirety of Romans 12. That passage throughout lists gifts and ministries which just might be yours. As you attempt to identify your gifts and ministries, call upon the Lord, He will not reject this appeal, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

It is my sincere and firm belief that all the saved ones should be working in the church to serve one another and the Lord, without exception. The churchís mission is to nurture you and your gifts, finding ways to employ you and train you to do the work of your ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 3:17). May all pastors, shepherds, and saints take to heart Paulís words, "fulfill your ministry." Successful ministry is not measured in the size of the church or the wealth gathered at the offering, it is measured by whether every person in the church is growing to maturity and is working to cause others to be built up in love.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)


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