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Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

What was God doing before the Creation?

In Apologetics on May 20, 2013 at 5:43 am

“What was God doing before creation?
Making hell for those cheeky enough to ask such questions!” But on the lane it is an easy question to answer. Jesus tells us explicitly in John 17:24. “Father,” he says, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” And that is the God revealed by Jesus Christ. Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son. In fact, we should not even set out in our understanding of God by thinking of God primarily as Creator (naming him “from His works only”)—that, as we have seen, would make him dependent on his creation. Our definition of God must be built on the Son who reveals him. And when we do that, starting with the Son, we find that the first thing to say about God is, as it says in the creed, “We believe in one God, the Father.” To know the Trinity is to know God, an eternal and personal God of infinite beauty, interest and fascination. The Trinity is a God we can know, and forever grow to know better. Our definition of God must be built on the Son who reveals him. And when we do that, starting with the Son, we find that the first thing to say about God is, as it says in the creed, “We believe in one God, the Father. And if God is a Father, then he must be relational and life-giving, and that is the sort of God we could love. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son.” The God who is love is the Father who sends his Son. To be the Father, then, means to love, to give out life, to beget the Son. Before anything else, for all eternity, this God was loving, giving life to and delighting in his Son.
SCRIPTURAL, REALLY? “Then what about Deuteronomy 6:4?” I hear my many Muslim cry. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” One, not three. But the point of Deuteronomy 6:4 is not to teach that “The LORD our God, the LORD is a mathematical singularity.” In the middle of Deuteronomy 6, that would be a bit out of the blue to say the least. Instead, Deuteronomy 6 is about God’s people having the Lord as the one object of their affections: he is the only one worthy of them, and they are to love him alone with all their heart, soul and strength (Deut 6:5). In fact, the word for “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 really doesn’t convey “mathematical singularity” at all well. The word is also used, for example, in Genesis 2:24, where Adam and Eve—two persons—are said to be one. Jehovah’s Witnesses can believe in the sacrificial death of Christ; Mormons in his resurrection; others in salvation by grace. Granted, the similarities are sometimes only superficial, but the very fact that certain Christian beliefs can be shared by other belief systems shows that they cannot be the foundation on which the Christian gospel rests, the truth that stands “before all things.” Francis Xavier (1506-1552) We need not be disturbed by such similarities. That which distinguishes Christianity has not been stolen. For what makes Christianity absolutely distinct is the identity of our God. Which God we worship: that is the article of faith that stands before all others. The bedrock of our faith is nothing less than God himself, and every aspect of the gospel—creation, revelation, salvation—is only Christian insofar as it is the creation, revelation and salvation of this God, the triune God. I could believe in the death of a man called Jesus, I could believe in his bodily resurrection, I could even believe in a salvation by grace alone; but if I do not believe in this God, then, quite simply, I am not a Christian. And so, because the Christian God is triune, the Trinity is the governing center of all Christian belief, the truth that shapes and beautifies all others. The Trinity is the cockpit of all Christian.
The Trinity is a truth that tests our dedication to the principle that God is smarter than we are. As strange as that may sound, I truly believe that in most instances where a religious group denies the Trinity, the reason can be traced back to the founder’s unwillingness to admit the simple reality that God is bigger than we can ever imagine. That is really what Christians have always meant when they use the term “mystery” of the Trinity. The term has never meant that the Trinity is an inherently irrational thing. Instead, it simply means that we realize that God is completely unique in the way He exists, and there are elements of His being that are simply beyond our meager mental capacity to comprehend. The fact that God is eternal is another facet of His being that is beyond us. We cannot really grasp eternity, nor how God exists eternally rather than in time. Yet this truth is revealed to us in Scripture, and we believe it on the logical basis that God is trustworthy. It is a “mystery” that we accept on the basis of faith in God’s revelation. When men approach God’s truth with a haughty attitude, they often decide that particular elements of that truth are not “suitable” to them, so they “modify” the message of the faith to fit their own notions. Since the Trinity is the highest of God’s revelations concerning himself, it is hardly surprising to discover that many groups deny it.
Christians have struggled for centuries to express, within the limitations of human language, the unique revelation God makes of His mode of existence. We struggle because language is a finite means of communication. Finite minds are trying to express in words infinite truths. At times we simply cannot “say” what we need to say to adequately express the grandeur that is our God.
The problem is, of course, God is completely unique. He is God, and there is no other. He is totally unlike anything else, and as He frequently reminds us, “To whom then will you liken Me?” (Isaiah 40:25). There is no answer to that question, because to compare God to anything in the created order is, in the final analysis, to deny His uniqueness. When we say, “God is like …” we are treading on dangerous ground.
First, the doctrine rests completely upon the truth of the first clause: there is only one God. “The one Being that is God” carries within it a tremendous amount of information.
Second, the definition insists that there are three divine persons. Note immediately that we are not saying there are three Beings that are one Being, or three persons that are one person. Such would be self-contradictory. I emphasize this because, most often, this is the misrepresentation of the doctrine that is commonly found in the literature of various religions that deny the Trinity.

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FIRST-PERSON: 10 reasons to be involved in a church

In Apologetics on May 2, 2013 at 6:16 am

David Roach

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (BP) — According to a recent newspaper report, only 8 percent of British men attend church regularly, though 53 percent identify themselves as Christians.

And the situation is similar in other Western nations, with more than 40 percent of U.S. evangelicals not attending church weekly and more than 60 percent of American mainline Christians not attending weekly, according to Pew data. In short, millions who consider themselves Christians limit their church attendance largely to holidays, weddings and funerals.

If you’re among these millions, please give church another chance. By getting involved, you’ll discover that what you once viewed as a chore is actually a blessing. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Church involvement is evidence that you’re a Christian in the first place. It also helps keep you from abandoning the faith. According to the author of Hebrews, the antidote to developing an “unbelieving heart” that leads you “to fall away from the living God” is to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 3:12-13) — an activity that occurs most prominently in the church.

2. Gathering with a church encourages believers to love others and do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

3. A church is the main venue for using your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). God has given you abilities and talents intended to help other Christians. If you’re not involved in a church, others are being deprived of what you have to offer.

4. A church helps you defend Christianity against those who attack it. When Jude told the early Christians to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3), he directed his instruction toward a group of believers, not a scattering of lone-ranger Christians. Answering challenges from coworkers, friends and family members is always easier when you can ask fellow church members for help and wisdom.

5. A church is a great venue for pooling resources to support missions and benevolent works (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 3 John 5-8). Your money combined with that of fellow church members can do a lot for Christ.

6. A church helps its members maintain correct doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15). You might begin to adopt unbiblical ideas without realizing it yourself. But you probably won’t adopt unbiblical ideas without someone at your church realizing it, and they can help you get back to the truth.

7. After your family, a church is the best group of people to meet your physical needs in an emergency (1 John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 5:3-16).

8. A church supports you when you face persecution (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12-17). You may not be imprisoned for your Christian beliefs like the apostles were, but a church family is still a great source of comfort when you face stinging words or unfair treatment.

9. A church is where you can be baptized and take part in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Ephesians 4:4-6). These two ordinances are a vital part of any believer’s walk with Jesus.

10. A church provides the setting for corporate worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Though it’s a blessing to praise God alone, there is a unique joy that accompanies singing God’s praises with an entire congregation of Christ followers.

The list could go on, but you get the idea. It’s worth it to start attending church.

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