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Showing posts from May, 2013

Sex, Lies, and Star Trek

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I confess, I’m something of a Trekkie. I’ve been looking forward to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness more than any other movie this year. While reading a few content reviews, though, I came across a snag. The film contains a scene in which a woman changes clothes after asking her male companion to turn his back to her—obviously for the sake of decency. After feigning compliance, the man sneaks a peek. So does the camera, giving the audience an unobstructed view of this woman in a state of undress.

Here’s what I have decided: I cannot financially support this movie. Why? Because I want to grow in my ability to honor God and love that actress.
In James 1:27, which I recently wrote about, we are told, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James gives the two distinctive fruits that grow from the root of genuine Christianity: love and holiness. Followers of …

Does Jesus Have a Double Standard?

Did Jesus use a double standard when dealing with people? It almost seems that way. Generally speaking, He reacted harshly to the scribes and Pharisees while showing tenderness to the promiscuous and delinquent. It isn’t because only one of the groups was in the wrong—they both were. Hypocrisy and debauchery are both sins, so why treat some sinners with force and others with gentleness?

The answer is the distinction between law and gospel. To quote an article in the Lutheran Study Bible, “One of the principles of Law and Gospel is that the Law is used with unrepentant sinners and the Gospel is used with repentant sinners.” Or, to use the words of Martin Luther, “For this also must be noted: that as the voice of the law is brought to bear only upon those who neither feel nor know their sins…so the word of grace [i.e., the gospel] comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair” (Bondage of the Will).
The law’s purpose is to awaken a dead—or, at least, a …

The Litmus Test of Genuine Christianity

Late last week, The Gospel Coalition was kind enough to publish an article I wrote about the test of pure and undefiled religion. You can check it out here.

The Gospel We (Don’t) Believe

If you’re a Christian, you’ve been saved by the gospel. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you sufficiently understand the gospel. Just as it is easy to mistake the essence, purpose, and function of the law, so it is possible—and dangerously easy—to misinterpret the gospel itself. Yes, even believers can have a faulty view of the gospel—to the detriment of their Christian walk.

Here’s a short quiz. Look at Genesis 12:2-3 and see if you can discern where the gospel is located.

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
We can see that this is a promise, not a command. Therefore, God is speaking here with the voice of the gospel, not the law. We can be even more explicit than that, though. These verses are, in effect, the very gospel of Jesus Christ—on par with Paul’s statement in 1 Timoth…

Using the Law Unlawfully

Have you ever sought to defend a cause only to end up proving something you didn’t mean to—like attempting to prove the existence of God only to find yourself backed into a corner? It’s a humbling, and evening a frightening, experience. Since I don’t think quickly on my feet, I have argued myself into a corner on more than one occasion.

One such occasion (or a period of time, rather) involved the realization that I had misinterpreted more than half the Bible. Up until that point, I was convinced that the prominent use of Scriptural commands—“Choose this day,” “If you are willing to obey,” etc.—proved that those commands could be obeyed. But as last week’s post pointed out, such a conclusion is faulty.
The conclusion is more than just faulty, though. It undermines the very faith on which we stand. You see, when we use the law to prove mankind’s ability, it ends up proving much more than we bargain for. It proves not just that we have some ability to follow after God; it proves that ma…