Wednesday, December 22, 2010
A Biblical Perspective on the Incarnation
This coming Saturday, billions of people will mark the birth of Christ in “Christ-Mass” celebrations. While we rejoice that perhaps still on one day…despite the tyranny of tolerance that we call “political correctness”…people remember Christ at least in some way. It gives Christians an opportunity to share the REAL gospel, the fact that Christ died for our sins on the cross, was buried for three days, rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to over 500 witnesses over the next 40 days as an undeniable witness for all time and eternity. (I Corinthians 15) It gives Christians the opportunity to share the fact that salvation comes only through Christ and that said salvation comes only through repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins from the Day of Pentecost until the end of time. Finally, it gives Christians the opportunity to share the fact that Christ died for and established but one church thus rendering all other “gospels” false. (Galatians 1)
Though the inspired apostle Paul gives individual Christians the right to recognize certain days in private, he also states emphatically in Romans 14:14 that when such opinions cause division in the Body of Christ, they should be kept “between (that person) and God.” When we impose human opinions, harmless when “kept between me and God,” upon entire congregations we then turn opinion into an addition to the Word of God. The celebration of the birth of Christ is never commanded, never mentioned and never celebrated for the New Testament church of Christ. It is indeed then ironic that the most “holy” celebration in catholic, protestant, evangelical and pentecostal divisions from the New Testament pattern is a celebration unknown in the pages of Scripture!
Understanding all of this, what was one man’s reaction to meeting the Christ child in person? (Very likely the middle of the summer of 4 b.c.) In Luke 2:22 – 35, righteous Simeon celebrates 7 things regarding the coming of Christ: 1) The coming of Christ will bring “peace,” the removal of the wrath of God upon those who will believe, 2) The coming of Christ will bring “salvation” from sins, something Moses could never do, 3) The coming of Christ will bring “revelation,” specifically the fact that Gentiles will be saved, 4) The coming of Christ will bring “glory” to God,” 5) The coming of Christ will cause “many in Israel to rise and to fall,” 6) The coming of Christ will bring “sorrow” to his dear mother in the flesh and, 7) The coming of Christ will bring “judgment,” for “the thoughts of many will be revealed.” What was important…and worth celebrating to Simeon…should be important and worth celebrating to EVERY Christian on December 25 and EVERY OTHER DAY of the year as well!
As an American family tradition, Christmas is truly the “most wonderful time of the year.” It is a time for family, hearth, giving and fun. It is not, however, a biblical and religious commandment for the church. When we do think of the birth of Christ – be it in December or July – let’s think about celebrating what Simeon celebrated: Peace, Salvation, Revelation, Glory, The Rising and Falling of Many, Sorrow and Judgment to Come!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Semantics, Social Justice and the Gospel in the 21st Century – Part 1
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.“
John 6:35b (ESV)
While in college, way back in the last century, I took a class on semantics. No class before or since has had a more positive bearing on my desire to properly communicate the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I must be up to the semantical challenges on a daily basis. Allow me to illustrate: I have a dog. I tell three people I am taking “my dog” to the vet. When I say “dog,” Mary thinks “poodle.” When I say “dog,” Mark thinks “blood hound.” When I say “dog,” Larry thinks German Shepherd. I own a beagle. When I say “dog,” I mean beagle. Four people, one word, four “meanings.” In order for me to be semantically correct and an effective communicator, I should say; “I’m taking my beagle to the vet.” Precise words with precise meanings, commonly understood, are the key to effective communication. And…no communication is more urgent than that of the gospel message. This point is soberly important for it is God Himself who has chosen the spoken word as the primary vehicle of the gospel! (Romans 10:8 – 18)
In the spirit of semantical precision, just what is the gospel? There is no need to wring our hands, circularly converse towards consensus or speculate with our imaginations! God has revealed the singular and everlastingly true definition of the gospel in I Corinthians 10:1 – 6;
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (ESV)The gospel consists therefore, without addition or subtraction, these four components; 1) Christ died for our sins, 2) Christ was buried, 3) Christ arose on the third day, and 4) Christ established the fact of his raising by appearing to over 500 witnesses before returning to heaven. THAT is the gospel!
In times past, effective communication was the goal of nearly everyone. Not so in our world! In our day and time, more and more people communicate with un-clear words and phrases…on purpose…in order to perpetuate one agenda or another. We call this practice “spin.” Spin is defined by the Miriam Webster On-Line Dictionary as, “…to evolve, express, or fabricate by processes of mind or imagination.”(1) “Spin” is the cumulative term. “Spin” is made up of what we call “buzz words.” A “buzz word” is defined as, “an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.”(2) The term “social justice” is a buzz-word. It takes noble sounding words to promote an agenda that is anything but noble. The term is not found in the Bible, neither Old or New Testaments. In fact, the term “social justice” is a mid 19th century concept coming out of the radicalism of the 1840’s that culminated in the revolutions of 1848(3). As Michael Novak observes;
The term "social justice" was first used in 1840 by a Sicilian priest, Luigi Taparelli d'Azeglio, and given prominence by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati in La Costitutione Civile Secondo la Giustizia Sociale in 1848.(4)What caused the revolutions of 1848, societal upheaval and the advent of “social justice?” Novak further observes;
The birth of the concept of social justice coincided with two other shifts in human consciousness: the "death of God" and the rise of the ideal of the command economy. When God "died," people began to trust a conceit of reason and its inflated ambition to do what even God had not deigned to do: construct a just social order. The divinization of reason found its extension in the command economy; reason (that is, science) would command and humankind would collectively follow. The death of God, the rise of science, and the command economy yielded "scientific socialism." Where reason would rule, the intellectuals would rule. (Or so some thought. Actually, the lovers of power would rule.)(5)Nature abhors a vacuum. When God was “shown the door,” the satanic surrogates came in. Those surrogates were Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. Society was no longer governed by “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was now “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” True justice was supplanted by “social justice.” [To Be Continued]
(3)For more information on the Revolutions of 1848: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848#cite_note-3