Sin or Society: Man’s Social Dilemma

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper,  a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.  But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste?  “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.  “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.  “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.  “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”  Matthew 26:6-13

Reportedly one reason leveled at Christianity in general and Jesus Christ in particular by detractors concerns Jesus’ lack of focus on social injustices. Since He came to save the world why didn’t He eradicate poverty? Why not deal with slavery? Or the cruelty of government? Since He clearly had phenomenal power at His disposal, the myriad reports of these are amazing, surely He could have turned His miraculous gifts in the direction of society’s more crucial issues.

I believe the reason that He did not was that there were more pressing problems facing mankind than those manifesting as the social ills of the day. The problem of the sickness of the heart is the one crucial issue that has plagued mankind that was the real cause of the cancers manifesting in societies worldwide.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  Mark 7:21,22

Humans have grown very adept at hiding this fact and inoculating himself from the real poison and trying a multitude of failed methods attempted to eradicate this curse of a sick heart. But as it was brought about by disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden, the only cure is obedience by God’s perfect Son, and our accepting of the gift of life through Him, Jesus Christ. And His resurrection from the dead is our only hope; an event occurring in the corner of the world 2000 years ago has been believed on by millions and celebrated up to today. Thanks You Lord for such an awesome gift.

“nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” John 11:50

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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Uh Oh, It’s the Bible!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Here we have in the first ten words of the Bible (in English) written thousands of years ago the answer to questions many humans continue to ask: “Are we alone in the universe?” and “how did the universe come to be?” And the answers are “no” and “God” respectively I’m reading again through the Bible, as I do annually, and want to comment on things that strike me as I go. Like the inquisitor’s two main topics, the Who and the How?

I admit without apology that I believe all of man’s answers to life and living as told through this holy book can be accepted only as a matter of faith. That is faith is the assurance that these things that are written are true. Hebrews 11:1 Can you believe in miracles? Can you believe that water can be made into wine? Can you believe that the dead can be raised? Can you believe that an all-supreme being came to earth in the form of man and walked among us? Can you believe that this planet, that all that we see was the result of careful design and engineering and creation and humanity was placed here?

Or would you rather believe that the universe formed on its own unguided after a big bang? Believe that single cell organisms abruptly appeared from the primordial slime and evolved into other creatures all on their own? Can you believe that humans evolved from one species of creature into something different all on their own? Can you believe that life itself was something that spontaneously occurred from a non-living entity creating its own consciousness, its own sense of “self-awareness.” Then for you “Evolution” is the designer, engineer, manufacturer.

If you are in the former camp you can read the books of the Bible with an open mind seeking to understand what is written and why it was written, seeking to know truth.

If you are in the latter camp nothing you read will make sense and you’ll imagine that it is all make believe like the dozens or hundreds of other cultures’ “holy books.” You won’t be alone; I was in your company for the first 26 years of my life until a sudden event had a monumental impact on my perspective of life.

I should say it is possible that one can accept God and true science. At least the science of the kind that is provable, that gave us discoveries like x-rays, vaccines, etc. things that are provable. But I will be honest, science can neither prove the existence of God nor can it prove the existence of what is today accepted as fact called evolution, in spite of what some scientists state are “facts” rather than theories taken on faith.

So if you are somewhere between the camp of the skeptic and the believer and are seeking answers keep reading. What is presented in the 66 books of the Bible does make sense. Read it and see. Next I comment on the first few chapters of Genesis.

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Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

What would you do, I’m speaking to you parents, if God asked you to take your only child, the child you’ve longed to have all the decades you’ve been married and have tried to have a child but couldn’t, and take that child and bring him to a far mountain and sacrifice him to the Lord as a blood sacrifice? Like He asked Abraham in Gen. 22: 1-12

If it was me I think I’d either question my sanity, since God does not have His people do things against His doctrines, i.e., kill your children, or I’d wonder if it was the devil tempting me like Satin did to Charles Manson.

But the Old Testament times were different days, and Abraham had plenty of experience with God telling him to do things like leave his home and go to a land far away where He would make the land a present to him and his posterity. So I guess Abraham recognized his voice.

But, and this is a huge but, God was asking him to sacrifice his only son, the son He promised would be the heir and future of his hopes and his nation! But there is nothing in the text that gives us any insight at all about how he debated or mulled this proposal in his mind. Except that early in the next morning they set of on the journey. In other words, Abraham obeyed God.

But you have to believe he was freaking out inside, right? What father wouldn’t? But consider the relationship Abraham had with God. Think about the faith he had in the Lord. This was not just a casual belief in God. This was not a “Churchianity” like so many of us have today, where we let the impact of the Holy Spirit indwelling us barely register on how we live our lives and deal with our world. This must have been a full walk moment by moment in the knowledge of the Lord to have the faith the Lord “will provide for Himself the lamb” without explicitly being told. He must have known God would never have Abraham harm his son, so he felt completely confident that he could tie up Isaac, lay him on the alter, on top of the wood, and even raise the knife over his head ready to strike! And I feel certain that even if God did not stop him from killing his son, he knew God was able to raise him from the dead, as well. See Heb. Heb. 11:19

I’m not quite sure I’ve got that much faith! But Abraham spent a lot of time following God’s instructions wandering around the Promised Land. Sure he stumbled on occasion, telling some kings his beautiful wife was his sister because he didn’t trust God enough to protect his family. But the magnificent thing about the way Abraham did believe God was that it was absolute. He believed God and God awarded him with Righteousness because of it. Gen. 15:6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

And the great thing about this is that it can happen to every human being in this same way – Jesus called it being Born Again. Just read John chapter 3. John 3:7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” When He was talking to a renown Teacher of the Law this Pharisee didn’t realize Jesus was speaking out of that very Law, as He so frequently did to their blindness.

I don’t know if there was tremendous relief in Abraham when God called out to stay his knife and do not harm the boy. Maybe his faith just pegged a notch. Maybe he did break out in a sweat. Who knows. What a phenomenal relationship he had with God, to go through such a blind trail. I sure hope I can fair as well, because I these kinds of pressures don’t let up in these crazy days of ours!

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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The Truth Suppressed, God is Knowable

Romans 1:18-20
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

This is just a spectacular statement for a man to make, even for a non-scientist, a theologian like Paul. This is before such 19 and 21st century scientific thought like Special Relativity, Quantum Physics, black holes, the “God particle,” “dark energy” as detected by the Hubble telescope, and so on. A simple declaration is made first thing in Romans to lay a foundation for the rest of Paul’s premise, God was knowable by everyone. Why was He knowable? Because God Himself made Himself evident! He wasn’t the watchmaker who wound up the watch and left it to run and then hid on His creation. No, He made Himself evident. He let His creation become the evidence for His existence. And not just for His existence but for His own personal characteristics as well. His invisible attributes! Paul understood there is something about the spiritual and emotional makeup of mankind that is perceptive enough to detect the eternal and the divine nature of God through creation. And these things about God are seen clearly. It isn’t some foggy notion or a puzzle, or some convenient notion that man makes God in his own image, it is a clear part of human nature to comprehend that there is an eternal, divine God who created all things.

But very sadly, Adam’s fall changed the original paradigm drastically. [Adam had the privilege to walk and talk face to face with God (in the form of Jesus).] While still able to understand all of this, mankind chooses to reject this information to one degree or another. History is proof of all that. How awful has been the impact in the life of all cultures – the rejection of this truth. The history books are filled with the awful tales as mankind spiraled downward to the worst forms of evils, as the Book of Genesis details graphically, though there have been bright spots in humanity here and there. So Paul could justly summarize his world and it applies just as much today in verse 21 and 22:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools

It is wonderful to hear some scientists today expound on the awesome discoveries made daily and give God the glory for the things fearfully and wonderfully made, but this is rare. More often one hears of the scientist who praises the god of evolution for deciding to take some particular path in development and declare how this is such a wonderful step in progress. Isn’t it great how Evolution brought us out of the slime to the lush planet we presently love and live. Yes, isn’t Evolution a fabulous sentient designer that can form all these species and adaptations and make all these decisions? Professing to be wise, they became fools indeed!

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The big lie. What makes more sense, that this huge, seemingly infinite, unimaginably complex universe, from the building blocks of subatomic particles to giant galaxies, would be a random accident of a non-designer, or stranger yet, a non-sentient evolutionary concept, or if a real Designer/Engineer was responsible for everything we see and sense? What if I told you your car just slowly appeared on its own eventually standing in your driveway fully formed ready to drive? How about the city you live in, that years ago it appeared fully formed with all the sub-structures, electronics, sewer, rail lines, streets, stores, everything you see, evolved ready for use; would you believe that story? Or would you say that designers and engineers had to be involved?

Yes, I thought so. Doesn’t He deserve some recognition for such a fabulous deed?

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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Romans, Paul’s Doctoral Thesis

I’ve reached the book of Romans in this year’s journey through the Bible. When you start the trip at the very beginning rather than make a lot of small side trips here and there, which is not to say there is something wrong with that, you inevitably pick up a larger picture, you gain a greater sense of the full structure of the vast history of what God has done in and with creation and mankind. You recall the old story of three blind men touching an elephant in different places, an animal they had never previously encountered and then trying to explain what the animal looked like. Without knowing how God has dealt with mankind, and inversely, how mankind has dealt with God since the beginning, it is most difficult, to say the least, what He is trying to accomplish among us. So the symmetry of the layout of the 66 book of the Bible is a beautiful thing and I love how Romans pick up right after the Book of Acts which ends with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, still given much freedom but under house arrest. Then his letter to the Romans begins even though it was written some years before when he expressed his desire to someday visit them and impart some spiritual gift. (1:11)

In my opinion (and in my meager reading) the greatest book to come out of Christendom is John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion. First published as a small tract in 1536 it grew to a fully developed treatise of Christian thought and Theology in its successive publications. Reading the Ford Lewis Battels’ edition (see my Resources page for a link) is an awesome experience in the study of Scripture and how Calvin’s insight of the Word is so remarkable in the sixteenth century. I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but almost.

But Paul’s letter to the Romans is the penultimate Institutes of the Christian Religion. It is quite fitting that this letter begins the Epistles section of the New Testament, and to come immediately after the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. This dissertation of the theology of Christianity, foundation, in all it nuance, how faith works, and the works it performs, is the cornerstone of Christianity itself. From this letter all the other Epistles in the New Testament gain a foothold in the mission Jesus gave His disciples before ascending into Heaven:

“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:45 – 49

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18 – 20

In this letter Paul pours all the great learning amassed in his Hebrew days and those days after the road of Damascus when he went away for fourteen years, no doubt to study the Scriptures in minute detail to see how they all applied to Jesus Christ.

So Romans is a catechism on steroids, it is the primer for the new Christian. It is a textbook for the advanced studies student. It is brilliant! It is one of the best books to learn by outlining. If you want to know what Paul meant in the verses around 7:13 – 7:21 if he was talking about the before salvation person or that after born again person, outline the book and it will be obvious. That’s just one of my favorite examples.

Romans should be a letter all Christians should read often and cherish. It is the book Martin Luther read that captured his spirit, salvation by faith alone. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Read it and learn the real purpose of the Law. Read about one big beautiful promise because of which people from all nations of the earth could be blessed through Abraham, not just Israel. Also read and wonder about God’s own choice like the potter making the jars to keep and discard if you have ears to hear. This is an awesome book.

While I recuperate from surgery I’ll try to post some thoughts on topics from Romans that strike me as important to the church and the world.

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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