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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Benevolent Rich Man

I recently heard a great illustration that I wanted to pass along:

Suppose a rich man knew another extremely poor man who needed a series of surgeries in order to keep himself from dying from an otherwise terminal illness. The surgeries would cost the poor man a total of 10,000,000 dollars over time, but there would be no possibility of that ever happening for him. The rich man, being the benevolent man that he was, decided to offer the poor man the money needed for his surgery to be paid in full and applied at the right time in order to make the future surgeries a guarantee. The poor man realizes his need for the money and ecstatically accepts the money and is made well.

Now, suppose that the rich man not only offered the money to the one poor man in need, but he also offered the money to another poor man in the same financial situation, with the same disease. The only difference in this story is that while the first poor man accepts the gift from the benevolent rich man the second poor man declines the offer. Of course we know that the rich man is not lacking in any benevolence, but what can we say of the second poor man? What is the difference from the one to the other? They both need the money in order to survive, but only one recognizes that need while the other one doesn't. What is wrong with this picture? Is one completely stupid? Is he in denial? What makes the first poor man accept the offer over the other poor man? Is the first poor man smarter than the second? They're in the exact same situation with no advantage over the other, so what gives?

What do you suppose would be the answer?

Why "Roman Catholic" is Accurate, and Merely "Catholic" is Not by James White

I wanted to pass this along because I think it's helpful. We cannot and never should we relinquish the deserving title of "catholic" to the Roman church. This would be inaccurate and irresponsible; but as Dr. White is much better at articulation, see what he has to say:


Monday, October 19, 2009

...for Spiritual Growth and Understanding

For quite some time now I've been observing and engaging believers who are excited and motivated to do work for the Lord. I find it refreshing that these folks have gained a heart for the Lord and are anxious to see others come to know Him--as it should be. The thing that I find overwhelmingly disappointing, though, is the lack on the part of some to truly seek to mine the depths of the riches of the knowledge of God that He has approved of us having by giving them to us in the Scriptures. The reason for my disappointment is due to the fact that knowing God is the essence of eternal life (Jn 17:3), and if we don't pursue this knowledge then what on earth are we actually holding forth to the nations?!

I think I should be more precise...

There have been many times in which I have been speaking to friends about theological topics when they express some pious attitude about how they don't think they'll ever know the truth about some particular aspect of who God is or what He's done in this world and among His people. They claim that something is a "paradox" if it seems as though there is some tension between one thing that the Bible says and another thing. If these people are being sincere, then I understand their hesitation, but I would still encourage them not to give up there. If they call something a paradox because they don't want to be in disagreement with someone over something that has been disagreed on for a really long time, they are guilty of letting someone's feelings about them get in the way of their knowledge of God. They are allowing someone to get in the way of their eternal life. There are many explanations of why those apparent contradictions appear to be at odds with one another, and it doesn't have to mean that there is no resolution beside calling it a paradox.

I have an example:

Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
(Joh 20:17)

Now, any orthodox Christian would say that Jesus Christ is God, and that God is a triune being. Though this is true, how does this verse fit with that belief? I've had Jehovah's Witnesses confront me with this verse, and it would not do to simply say, "Well, that's what Christians have always believed." No, this, in their minds, is a contradiction to your belief in the Trinity. Is this verse merely a paradoxical one that we just have to accept on the authority of tradition, or is this a verse that fits harmoniously together with those other verses that affirm the fact that Christ is indeed God in the flesh and that demonstrate His preexistence to all creation? We need to be able to affirm things like these, not on the basis of tradition, but on the authority that we believe that the Scriptures have as the authority to equip us for every good work (II Tim. 3:16-17).

Supposing we don't let the doctrine of the Trinity rest on mere tradition, have we satisfied ourselves with a surface level understanding of this truth about God based on a few verses that seem to fit this together for us? Hopefully, we've spent time reading the Bible and putting these things together in a way that truly satisfies our understanding of God because we love Him because of who He is and what He's done in our lives. Hopefully, we've done these things because we value the relationship that we've been given with Him and are pursuing this eternal life.

I have an illustration...

Imagine Tony, a 17 year old boy who sees Tanya, a girl of the same age walking to school every day past his house. Tony likes what Tanya has to offer him in the looks department, so he goes to talk to her, asks her out on a date, and they begin to get more deeply involved with one another. Eventually, their relationship leads to marriage, and they begin their life together.

Do you suppose Tony knows nothing about his wife? Does he know that she looks great, takes great care of the house, and treats him really nice; but he has no idea what her interests or goals are? Doesn't it makes sense that Tony would know the most intimate details about who Tanya is and what makes Tanya Tanya? And why would he know these things? Or why would he have even cared enough to do the hard work it sometimes takes to find these things out? It's because he loves her and he values his relationship with her.

Do you suppose that anyone would believe Tony's claim of loving his wife if he didn't desire to really KNOW his wife (and I'm not talking about King James "know")? Would you believe anyone who said that they loved their wife while not knowing anything about the woman? "Yeah, she looks great and don't bother me too much." Do you think that's love? No one would.

The point I'm trying to make is: if eternal life is knowing God, how much do we value this eternal life that we've been given? If we truly value the privilege of knowing God, can we really be content saying, "I don't want to worry about all those details, I just want to tell people about Him so they can be saved." Why? Why would they want to be saved? So they don't have to go to hell? Is that the real reason they should want to be saved? Is that the end all be all? Why do you want to tell them about Him? What is so great about Him anyways? Is it the fact that He can do this great thing for you? So, it's about what you can get from Him instead of getting HIM?

Somebody help me out here! I know I'm rambling, and I think rightly so! I'm frustrated! How can we call ourselves Christians while neglecting to spend time getting to know this Lover of our souls as we would some beautiful young woman or good-looking young man (if you're a woman)? How insulting to the One who loved us enough to crush and slay His Son in order to bring us close to Him! We would do this with no shame for "the one," so what keeps us from some discomfort in plumbing the depths of the word and discussing these truths and reading things outside of the Bible in order to fully understand (as far as possible in this life) the magnificence of our God?!

As I write this, I can't deny that I fall short in this. I know fully the fact that I should be spending more time in the word desperately seeking to know Him more than I did yesterday. This is something none of us can escape. We need more of God, and we ALL need to take time to understand who He is as far as His word will take us. And we need to do all that we can to understand how He saved us and what He has done in the world and why and every other detail that He has revealed to us in His word; and we should try and try until we have been fully convinced from His word that He has finally answered, "This far and no farther." Don't give up and don't give in. This is the greatest treasure that we have in this life--to know GOD!

Don't end up like the adopted son who gives people a bad impression of his dad. Get to know your Dad in order to represent Him accurately and becomingly. If we work harder at knowing God more fully, we can make an impact in pushing back the tide of error that has marked American Christianity for so many years. We can truly inform people of His love that can be experienced and relished for the rest of this life and on into eternity.

A Practical Plea...

Imagine a young man of 17 being adopted by a man who owns a car dealership that specializes in buying clunkers in order to repair and resell them. Suppose this young man is excited to get down and dirty and work on those clunkers in order to add to his adopted father's success and notoriety. This young man has no earthly clue as to how you change oil, let alone how to replace an engine; but he is so anxious to make his father proud by getting these clunkers road worthy so they can serve his father's purpose.

Little does this adopted son realize, but his new father is more interested in doing business according to a particular method. His father has decided that he wants the best possible parts to be used by people that have been trained to do things according to the specific method that he has developed. The young man's father has arranged things in this way so that he will be regarded with honor and respect as the trustworthy architect of an upright business establishment.

However, the newly adopted son has realized the goodness of his gracious father and has decided to try to bring much more honor to his name by getting as many of his cars on the road as possible--no matter how shoddy the work ends up being in the process. Unfortunately, the son has missed the goal and the method of the father, and he has therefore allowed unworthy representative automobiles onto the road that have actually damaged his father's reputation...

Dramatized Exegesis