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My response to the question “Do you hate your life?” is simple: Jesus said I should!  When someone else responds to the same question, I pray they say the same thing. Or maybe even a more profound, “I do”. I know that this sounds strange, but I think Jesus would agree with me. He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

These are hard words but they come from the lips of Jesus. That makes me want to pay attention.  Do I understand this?  I think I’m beginning to. Usually when someone says “I hate my life” it is a bad thing. We think of depression, despondency, and maybe even suicidal tendencies in the life of the speaker. Jesus’ words, however, suggest that something far more joyous, wonderful, and glorious is involved here. I’m not recommending some sort of morbid fatalism.  Nor is that what Jesus is trying to encourage. This verse is a comparative statement. In other words, He is asking if we love Him more than our own life here in this world.

Recently I was chatting with my next door neighbor and the conversation turned to the attractiveness of the world.  He said, “At 83 years of age this old world has lost most of its attraction”.  I paused for but a second and then blurted out, “I’m a significantly younger than that but I couldn’t agree more”. I said it from my heart and with all sincerity. The more I thought about my reaction the more I realized that it wasn’t just the sin, trials, pain, and suffering of this world that I wanted to escape from.  I want to be with my Lord and Savior. This desire becomes more intense in me almost daily and I know that is a work of His grace.

Paul felt the same way: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:21-24). Yes, he wanted to live in such a way that demonstrates that “[God’s] love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). But Paul is acknowledging that life is good for ministry and enjoying God’s blessings here but only within the framework that heaven is indescribably better because of the immediate presence of our Savior and the unhindered experience of being with Jesus. For Paul this isn’t just escapism because He is familiar with the ultimate reward of His death – Jesus Himself.

I do want intimate fellowship with Him now, to be busy in the Lord’s work, to enjoy His gifts, and be profitable for His kingdom as long as He chooses for me to remain here. But the older I get the less I want to hang around here on this earth. Yes, my life has had its share of disappointments but it goes beyond that. More and more I feel like I’m not at home here. I think that is what the writer of Hebrews was saying when he wrote, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).  Peter underscores that we are “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). Paul comments, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20).

Do we freely admit we are aliens and strangers here? Or do we desperately cling to this world as if it is our ultimate reward? Do we believe the love of God is better than life itself and eagerly await our Savior? Those are tough questions and only God and each individual know the answers. Do we, like Paul, see our time on this earth only as an opportunity for fruitful ministry while really longing to be in the presence of Jesus?

This world’s attraction is strong. Our fleshly nature encourages us to find our home, pleasures, and greatest treasures here. Satan subtly woos us to love our earthly life and its trappings. But the true believer’s real reward is not of this world. Jesus said to His disciples, “Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away…you are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23). He knew that they would want to be with Him and eventually would. Jesus was inferring that they couldn’t come with Him right now but He knew that His presence was their ultimate reward.

Do we know that He is our ultimate reward as well? Our comfortableness and pleasure in this world, as well as our attraction to it, is probably a good measuring stick. James says it this way, “… Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy” (James 4:4).

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**** This is an excerpt form Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 

Have you ever wondered why this verse doesn’t say sins (plural)?  Could it be that there is a difference between our sin and our sinfulness?  Well, there is.  Our sinfulness is the root of our sin.  Let me explain. 

Sinfulness is our nature.  That sinful nature causes us to sin.  That’s why they say, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart”.  That’s why Jesus came to deal with our sinfulness so that we might be declared righteous and be given the capacity for good deeds in Him.  He knew what the heart of the problem was so He came to change the human heart.  Now this will not happen completely until we are glorified but it should give us pause to our inherently depraved nature (our sinfulness) and the unrighteousness (sin) that it produces. This is critical in understanding His redemptive purpose.  

I think that we see these 2 different uses of sin in John 8:7-11: “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 

The pious and disapproving crowd wanted to condemn her for her sin (adultery) yet Jesus pointed out that they were not without sin (sinfulness).  They too were capable of sin, even though they may not have committed the sin of physical adultery.  In other words, they and the adulterous woman had the same problem – they were sinners by nature – although their transgressions may have varied.  But don’t we do this?  We readily condemn the sins of others without seeing our own twisted and distorted deviance from God’s holy standard.  Yet when we do recognize that we have “missed the mark” of God’s perfection we often do not go deep enough in our analysis. 

We need to understand this.  Because when we are aware of our sin and ask His forgiveness for it we often times don’t recognize the deeper issue – our sinfulness.  We fail to peel back the onion of our wretched and stained hearts to see the root and cause of the problem.  We go on addressing our sin without asking Him to deal with our nature.  We should be aware of both. We should be asking for God to forgive both – our sin and sinfulness.  We should be asking God for His strength to deal with both. 

It may be painful but it is purifying to dissect our innate Godlessness.  Not only does it aid in our battle with sin but it creates a new and amazing perspective on His grace.  As we begin to see more and more of our sinfulness His forgiveness will become larger and larger.  As we become lower He becomes higher. And this will cause us to love Him more and that will be the motivator of our thankful obedience. That’s why Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).    As we discover the depth and breadth of the underbelly of our unworthiness He becomes immeasurably more worthy in our hearts.  And as we see His indescribable value our dependence on Him grows.  

Do you see the Godward spiral?  We see the depths of our sinfulness, we gaze upon His purity, we marvel at His redemptive plan and provisions, we increasingly adore Him in all of His loveliness, we embrace our utter dependence on Him and our life reflects this divine communion.  He becomes our treasure and our power for He has conquered our sin and sinfulness.


Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, ESV). 

I struggle with the sin of self-sufficiency. I recently was confronted by God’s convicting Spirit and was compelled to admit and confess my arrogance (in public, no less). And, if we were all to take an honest gaze into the recesses of our hearts, I’m convinced that I am not alone in this struggle. “We have turned everyone to his own way”, said the prophet Isaiah (53:6). Mind you, he didn’t say “some”. He said “everyone” because we are all bent toward a pride that separates us from God and, to make matters worse, our capitalistic culture projects self-sufficiency as both admirable and necessary. 

Even the Western contemporary church often winks at such an attribute, considering it one of those “acceptable sins” (if not, even worse, a positive personality trait). But it is a sin nonetheless and it often worms our way into the darkest crevasses of our souls. It is a subtle and insidious form of the mother of all sins, pride. Moreover, our self-sufficiency is a hindering, self-imposed tyranny. Malcolm Muggeridge often referred to “the dark little dungeon of my own ego”. Therefore, I must deal with this problem in a most decisive manner lest I, and my own efforts, become my own golden calf of idolatry.

The Biblical picture is that we have all become self-centered rather than God-centered. In ignoring God we have become deceived into an attitude that focuses on own competence, ingenuity, and effort. And this is the essence of sin as it is described in the Bible. As G. C. Weiss has described it, “sin is self-sufficiency instead of faith in God; self-will instead of submission to God; self-seeking instead of honouring God; self-righteousness instead of humility and contrition before God”. The insightful 20th century prophet (as in powerfully and penetratingly proclaiming God’s truth) A. W. Tozer described these ‘self’ sins as “the hyphenated sins of the human spirit” and added that “they are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.” 

John Stott describes this, the most basic of our problems in The Contemporary Christian:

“I can remember what a revelation it was to me to learn…that what the Bible means by ‘sin’ is primarily self-centredness. For God’s two great commandments are first that we love him with all our being and secondly that we love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Sin, then, is the reversal of this order. It is to put ourselves first, virtually proclaiming our own autonomy, our neighbour next when it suits our convenience, and God somewhere in the background.”

This is the very issue that Paul was addressing in his second letter to the Corinthian church. His confidence and competence was not in himself but through Christ. He saw Him as the source of anything good that he had or did. He said the same thing to the Galatian church, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). James echoes this sentiment when he says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). 

Paul goes on in Second Corinthians 3 to say he is not sufficient or competent apart from Christ and the Spirit (v.5-6). He is not pointing to himself and his own strength but to the all-sufficiency and supremacy of Jesus (see Colossians 1:15-20). There, and there only, is our true sufficiency and competence found – in Christ through His Spirit. Later, with this same principle in mind, Paul makes this astonishing statement: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

In other words, it is our intentional yielding to the sufficiency of God, the forsaking of our own competence (being weak), and faith-filled dependence on Him that releases the very power of the Creator of the universe in and through us. This makes me wonder why I ever thought that I was doing anything of God-exalting influence and substance in my own strength (other than that stealth-like sin of pride). It reminds me that only “in Him” do I possess anything that pleases Him and advances His kingdom. As Peter tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).


This is an actual dialogue between me and an unbeliever. I have kept the content intact (except for correcting some of my typos…the commenter’s entries were left completely unchanged). At the beginning I have included the original blog that spurred the conversation. I’m sorry for the length of this post but I could find no good way to break it up. I think you will find it interesting reading – here we see two totally different worldviews and two radically different approaches to life (and communication).  Judge for yourself.

Defending our Faith – Simplified Christian Apologetics

Many a philosopher has attempted to prove the existence of God.  There are numerous philosophical arguments (cosmological, ontological, etc.). The Bible itself never attempts to prove God’s existence but just introduces Him (Genesis 1:1) and describes His as the great “I am” (the self-existent one). However, there is a plethora of books written to defend our faith (the definition of apologetics) in Christ as the son of God and our only hope. Much of what has been written is technical and scholarly but of little use to the common man (such as I). So, here is my rudimentary version of why I believe there is a God, that the God of the Bible is the one true God, and what we as Christians must understand in our personal evangelism.

 Is There a God? 

Despite the obvious evidence of creation (See Romans 1), our innate sense of a greater power, and the moral code that is apparent through all of time and all civilizations (the argument that most atheists will admit is the strongest for a supreme being) many choose to remain in disbelief. Blasé Pascal’s argument clearly states the practical solution to this critical question. He said, “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing”. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists”.  In other words, if you believe in God and you are wrong then you have lost nothing. If you don’t believe in God and He exists then you have lost everything. This is a common-sense explanation of why there is no hope for us beyond this life if there is no God. Most unbelievers will accept the logic of this argument. 

How has God Spoken? 

Next, if we believe there is a God why would we choose the God of the Bible? There is no shortage of religions or religious definitions of God. A thorough study of the Bible as opposed to other religions has made it clear to me that the Christian Scripture reveals the one true God. I would say that God’s word is self-authenticating (so would John Calvin). There are many technical arguments for why the Bible of Christianity is true and most obviously demonstrates the real character of the Omnipotent but that is not enough to convince some.  It must be read with an open mind and heart while doing an honest comparison of Christianity to all other religions. God’s sovereign power will do the rest. The Jesus of the Bible, and His mission of sacrifice, grace, and power over the grave, is unlike anything other religions offer. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate communicator of this truth. 

The Role of Faith. 

In the end, we all believe in something.  Some choose to believe in disbelief but it is still the exhibition of a form of faith. Since no one can absolutely disprove the existence of God or the facts of the Bible then even atheists are operating on faith. God’s Spirit has convinced me that faith in Him and His word is the obvious choice. If I have to wager my eternal destiny, I will choose to believe in God and the God of the Bible. The faith that He has given me gives solace and hope. No technical argument for or against the existence of God can replace the peace from believing in and knowing God through Jesus Christ. 

The Sovereignty of God. 

As much as the grace of God overwhelms and baffles me, I know that faith in Jesus is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). I don’t know whom He chooses but He does so according to His own divine purpose and will (see Romans 9:14-24). I do know that I am to believe, be faithful, and surrendered to Him. I’m to share Him as I go (Matthew 28:19-20) and trust that He will reveal Himself to those that I encounter and share Him with. I’m also called to live in such as way that He is glorified and I image forth the beauty of our great God and beautiful Savior. As St. Francis of Assisi put it, “Preach the gospel everywhere and when necessary use words”. Beyond that, it is between the individual and their Creator as to whether they believe of not. I believe the greatest act of apologetics I can do is to live in such a way that others see the God of the Bible and Jesus in me. The rest is left up to Him in His sovereignty. I pray that God will use me to draw those apart for Him to Himself for His own worthy glory. 

Commenter:

>Most unbelievers will accept the logic of this argument.

Not so fast. You can believe in a god and still lose Pascal’s Wager. If there is a god, it really matters which god you believe in. If you believe in Yahweh/Jesus, you could end up in Muslim Hell or reincarnate endlessly.

Pascal’s Wager is simply an illusion created by Christian ethnocentrism. There is no safe bet. It is truly a wager. The real god might reward rationality or detest blind faith.

>Since no one can absolutely disprove the existence of God or the facts of the Bible

No one can disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Is the evidence of your god on the same footing?

>then even atheists are operating on faith.

All believers are also atheists about all the other gods. You know what it’s like to be unpersuaded that Vishnu or Thor are real. You have heard of one god concept that makes sense to you. Atheists simply haven’t heard of any god concepts that makes sense to them.

Does it take faith to not believe in the Easter bunny? No. Everyone lacks the belief in thousands of gods and other baseless ideas. This is normal, it isn’t faith. 

Linden:

Greetings, My Friend!!
I agree with some of what you say but not with all of it. Either way, I have no desire to enter into an argument with you. We all can choose to believe or not believe whether it is “normal”, based on evidence, or on faith. I caringly pray that you choose to believe in something real that brings you hope and joy that is both temporal and eternal. I have found that in Jesus and I desire that you do as well. My Jesus is not the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – there is much more historicity (and experiential) to Him than that. In your honest pursuit of the truth that gives you a purposeful present and future, I hope you seriously and open-mindedly consider Him. At the end of this life (death), we will all discover what is true. In the meantime, I will cling to Him and His promises. There I have found all that makes this life and my hope in the life to come most satisfying and complete. No matter where you stand, I care that you find the peace only Jesus can give. Psalm 14:1.
In Him,
Linden 

Commenter:

>Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?

This is a false choice. The choice is not between believing in God and not believing in God. You still have to choose which god to believe in. “Faith” is not monolithic. You could believe in Yahweh/Jesus and end up in Muslim hell.

There is no safe bet.

>what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?

One harm is the possibility of living one’s life in a delusion. Another is that the faith mechanism offers no good way to adjudicate between conflicting claims, leading to a world where everyone lives in different, subjective worlds. In other words, the world we presently live in. Scientific naturalism, while not perfect, offers a way out of this volatile situation.

 Linden:

Hey Don! Thanks for your comment!!! A personal question, if you don’t mind: Do you still enjoy playing the organ at your Presbyterian church?

I think I understand your reasoning. Yes, I may be, by your definition, “delusional” for believing not just in a God but, also, that the God of the Bible (Jesus) is the one true God. However, I came to that conclusion not based upon indoctrination but my own open-minded study of the evidence for God (much of which is scientific) and an in-depth analysis of all the major religions. Christianity was my much analyzed choice because of several key differentiators (God’s grace and not a man-induced works-based salvation, a living Messiah, and a distinctly unique moral code (see the Sermon on the Mount for an example), etc. Anyway, this is probably, to you, me lying to myself in order to cope with the eventuality of death. But to me, experientially, my faith (and it really is faith) has manifested itself and is self-authenticating due to a transformation in every aspect of my life here and now. I pray that you would also experience the joy, peace, and hope that comes through such faith. You may consider me a simpleton or delusional but I believe I serve an infinitely worthy Savior to whom I owe all that I am. In this I have found indescribable contentment. My faith has allowed me to experience love on an altogether different level – a level only the God of the Bible could create. And I pray the same for you!

Yes, I have considered Scientific Naturalism and found it lacking (this is by no means exhaustive):

It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.
It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us).
It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.
It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.
It devalues mankind to a grouping of chemicals, molecules, and atoms that makes us of little more significance than a rock (and I believe YOU and I have more value than that -:).
It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code (talking about chaos!). Why, based upon naturalism, would anyone be inclined to treat their neighbor with love, respect or fairness – why not lie, steal, murder, rape, etc. (after all we are just matter with no eternal destiny or no eternal consequences)?
It is completely man-centered and mankind is not the solution in our world but the problem. With all of our scientific and intellectual “evolution” our world is still haunted by war, hunger, poverty, anger, crime, etc. not to mention the continued decline in the respect for human life on every level.

You seem to be a much brighter fellow than I am and certainly a seeker for some sort of truth to hold onto. I will pray that you find that truth. You may scoff at my Jesus and my belief in Him but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. I pray that an honest pursuit of who He is as the Bible reveals Him will lead you directly to the one Who is “the way, the truth and the life”. The one who is supreme over all people, nations and rulers. Sounds silly, eh? Well that silliness has changed my life…I pray it changes yours too. Interestingly, God’s Word says that such faith will be “silliness” to some: 

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Again, thanks for your comments and have a great week!

In love,
Linden

Commenter:

>My Jesus is not the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – there is much more historicity (and experiential) to Him than that.

There is abundant history and experience supporting the Greek and Norse gods. I doubt you would change your belief to Hinduism because it has a deeper faith tradition. We want more than that. We want our beliefs to be true.

Over at jwwartick.com, we’ve been discussing the evidence for god. It sounds like you don’t need evidence; that’s the power of faith. My worry about faith is that it leads to conflicting claims. Your faith may be wholesome and important to you, but others are using it to justify killing their sisters for dating the wrong guy. There is no way we can say that guy is wrong and you are right. His religious experience carries just as much weight as yours.

I am a former believer. I’ve had religious experiences and been in love with Yahweh. I felt privileged and elated to know the truth. As I grew up, I felt several pinches because of my faith. Logical, humanitarian and scientific conflicts arose. Ultimately, I gave up my faith because of my values. I value truth more than my own comfort. While I don’t have privileged access to truth, I have been able to rule some things out using reason.

Nice talking with you. Your beliefs aren’t far from the ones I once held. We all have different values and it sounds like your beliefs are in line with your values.

Commenter:

I don’t share your characterization of scientific materialism.

>It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.

You have a point and I am skeptical of science, too. There is an area of the philosophy of science called Instrumentalism. It says that science is quite limited and its results should not be taken as ontological statements about reality. I’m in this camp. I think science is the worst way we have to know the world, except for all the others.

>It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us).

Definitely not true. My version of materialism does not deny the existence of anything. I simply confine myself to commenting on those things that present themselves to our senses. I mentioned this to JW Wartick:

Scientific naturalists limit themselves to materialism because to make claims without it is a form of lying. Sam Harris has pointed out that if I told you I had an even number of cells in my body, you would have no reason to believe me. That claim has a much better chance of being true (50%) than the claim that some sort of god exists (and far better than the claim that Yahweh exists) but is still not justified.

>It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.

We must remain humble when doing science. Being human, we are prone to ego, wishful thinking, comfort-seeking and pride. Even so, I think the contributions of science (such as this blog) speak for themselves. They are morally neutral and have thus done both good and bad things. But so have knives and teeth. Science is a toolkit and to explain its success without saying it really is getting at the nature of external reality seems impossible.

>It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.

Dawkins said: “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

When asked how he, one of the most purposeful men alive, could believe such a grim philosophy. Dawkins replied, “The universe has no purpose, but I do.”

>It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code

First, nonbelievers behave as well as believers. Two, religion has not inoculated anyone against evil. The correlation between religious belief and morality is a false one. We don’t need religious belief to be good and it doesn’t make us moral anyway. These are matters of plain observation.

Humanistic philosophy, given to us by evolution, is more than sufficient to live together. And it doesn’t make gods of humans. We are all still subject to nature.

 Linden:

Hey Don! I’m glad you have connected with JW Wartick – he is really a philosophical apologist and I’m just a simple follower and servant of Jesus.

It seems to me that logic is not the real issue here. When you suggest that those who believe in eternal reward and punishment are no more incented than an atheist to live morally and ethically I believe that statement is not very reasonable. All of the honest atheists (since you quote several atheists) I’ve met are keenly aware that the biggest weakness in atheism is the presence of a similar moral code across all of history and civilizations and are unable to logically explain that apart from some kind of supreme moral Being. Secondly, your comment that the Greek and Norse gods are just as historical as Jesus is weak. Jesus is a known historical figure and that is verified by historians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This can not been said of the gods you mentioned.

Anyway, if it is just reason and logic that you seek then Wartick and others (Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, and Lee Stobel – the last 2 being former atheists) are a better place to start than me.

My speculation is that this is not an issue of values or logic. I’m guessing it is a spiritual rebellion that has arisen from some crisis, pain, injustice, or tragedy that has caused you to try your best to rationalize God out of your life. I may very well be wrong and truly hope that I am. If I am correct then I’m terribly sorry for whatever it is or was. Therefore, I will leave you with a couple of thoughts. I believe He exists and does so whether we choose to believe or even try to determine His non-existence by some statistical odds. He says that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That is true of you as well as me. And that is not about our comfort. I don’t believe in Him for that for He has called me to a life of self-denial and self sacrifice because He is infinitely worthy of my total surrender. That means pain, persecution, and tribulation. I gladly will endure that because He is the King of the (and my) universe. I pray that you return to your faith in Christ stronger and more devoted to Him and His Kingdom. And I will sincerely and repeatedly pray for that. I’d love to stand along side you in this journey of faith.

Let’s now leave on good terms. Honorable people can agree to disagree. Given that God describes Himself as love I hope that message and the beauty of Jesus has permeated my responses to your comments. For in the end He will be glorified!

Respectfully,
Linden

 Commenter:

All faith claims are on an equal footing. A follower of Thor could just as well say the same to you about your faith in Yahweh/Jesus:

Linden:

I’m just a simple follower and servant of Thor.

My speculation is that this is not an issue of values or logic. I’m guessing it is a spiritual rebellion that has arisen for some crisis, pain, injustice or tragedy that has caused you to try your best to rationalize Thor out of your life. I may very well be wrong and truly hope that I am. If I am correct then I’m terribly sorry for whatever it is or was. Therefore, I will leave you with a couple of thoughts. I believe Thor exists and does so whether we choose to believe or even try to determine His non-existence by some statistical odds. Thor says that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That is true of you as well as me. And that is not about our comfort. I don’t believe in Thor for that for He has called me to a life of self-denial and self sacrifice because He is infinitely worthy of my total surrender. That means pain, persecution, and tribulation. I gladly will endure that because Thor is the King of the (and my) universe. I pray that you return to your faith in Thor stronger and more devoted to Him and His Kingdom. And I will sincerely and repeatedly pray for that. I’d love to stand along side you in this journey of faith.

Let’s now leave on good terms. Honorable people can agree to disagree. Given that Thor describes Himself as love I hope that message and the beauty of Thor has permeated my responses to your comments. For in the end Thor will be glorified!

When you abandon reason, you are adrift in a sea of equal, contradictory faith claims.

 Linden:

I rejoice to be mocked for the name of my sweet Savior Jesus. I and my Christian friends will be praying for you. Please let me know if I can do anything for you. In His name, Linden

 Commenter:

I used your own words to show you how your claims sound to someone who doesn’t believe in Yahweh/Jesus. It is a device that helps overcome ethnocentrism. You can gain nothing from them if you dismiss them as mockery.

 Linden:

Actually, you are right. You weren’t mocking me but my God. If that is a device you find helpful then all I can do is pray for you. God (and I don’t mean Thor -:) bless you, my friend!


**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008:

In this age of relativism and situational ethics we are easily confused by the concept of truth. The thought leaders of our day―the humanists, the atheists, and the modernists— are not easily identified, but they all buy into the notion that truth is a relative concept. The phrase that best captures their foundational principle is, “There is no absolute truth.” Ironically, if they truly believe that then they must also feel that their own philosophy is not absolutely true. It is intrinsically contradictory and of no value.

 As Christ-followers we believe that truth is absolute. Moreover, that belief gives us hope in something bigger than ourselves and our finite intellects. What we must understand is the radical difference between a truth and the truth. You see, Christians do not have a monopoly on truth in general because we are limited by our human natures and are simply incapable of grasping all things that are correct. What we do have, however, is access to the absolute truth through God’s revelation. God’s Word says that we can have a relationship with the truth itself: we can have fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When we know Jesus, we know God. Now that is a radical reality we can put our hope and trust in.

Pontius Pilate, a man who was far from being a believer, recognized that truth was tangible, but he had no idea how to grasp it. In a dialogue that is heart-breaking when we recognize just how close Pilate stood to truth, Pilate examined Jesus:

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37-38). Pilate wanted to know the truth—notice that he didn’t say a truth but referred to truth in general. The irony here is that Pilate had seen the truth right in front of Him. The Roman leader was enraptured with Christ’s perfection and briefly caught up in its vortex. Pilate did not, however, move past intellectual assent to life-transforming faith in lieu of this discovery.

So what does this mean for us? Jesus’ words explain. He said that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him (See John 16:13-15). The problem is that we have to really want to know the truth: we have to really want to know Him. We must choose between false man-made philosophies or the truth that is Jesus. Unfortunately some refuse to accept His truth. Jesus said, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” ( John 8:45). When this is the case “they have exchange the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) and are without hope. Without experiential knowledge of the truth of who He is we remain in our sin. Unless we believe His truth we do not have access to God (John 14:6).

Every human faces two paths: one leads to bondage and death, the other to life and freedom. When we flee from our self-induced quagmire of doubts and our desire to believe that all truth is relative we can find a prize: freedom (See John 8:32). This freedom gives us liberty from death and sin. It also allows us to be freed from the bondage of self-effort and its futility. This freedom points others the One who came to set us free. Jesus Christ came to testify to the truth that God the Creator seeks reconciliation and relationship with His people. Let’s pursue it. Let’s embrace the reward of relationship with Him and the glorious freedom of knowing that He is truth.


“God created man in His own image and man returned the favor”. These sarcastic words are a quote from Voltaire, the famous French philosopher and agnostic. Are we stunned? We shouldn’t be. Paul saw this human tendency from a long way off and warned of the inherent dangers of exchanging the truth of God for a man-made lie:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:21-23, 25).

In the contemporary professing church today there is a tragic dearth of Biblical study of the person and works of God. Pop-psychology and emotional subjectivism have replaced the Scripture’s paradigm of how God describes Himself. And this point is critical. God’s Word is what best defines who He is. No amount of man’s wisdom, clever language, or vivid imagination can do justice to the nature of God when compared to His self-revelation. A quick glance at a large portion of best-selling “Christian” books and DVDs shows them to be shockingly humanistic in their characterization of the sovereign Lord. When church members gobble up millions of books that portray the creator of the universe as an overweight African-American woman who likes to cook or describes God as “a risk taker” (which denies God’s omniscience) we have an obligation to be alarmed and sound a warming siren.

This is juxtaposed against the exalted view of God and the proper study of His nature and character that was expressed (at age 20 nonetheless) by C. H. Spurgeon “It has been said that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father”. Spurgeon eloquently defines the knowledge of God to be a worthwhile and necessary pursuit but only when conducted through “proper study”.

Tragically today many within the “church” view God through the lens of self, fiction, humanistic psychology, or popular thinking. Often little of our definition of Him relies upon God’s own objective statements of His attributes and character. If it is uncomfortable, seemingly “unfair”, doesn’t “feel right”, or promotes God in all of His otherness (His holy and infinitely superior distinctiveness from His creation) then we prefer to redefine Him in more comfortable, man-friendly terms. In this process we can so modernize, rationalize, humanize, homogenize, anthropomorphize, and domesticate Him that we altogether de-deify the Creator. And in doing so we have created God in our own image, thereby endangering ourselves to the very judgment of God that Paul spoke of in Romans 1.

I believe that God is incomprehensible, absolutely transcendent, and inherently sovereign in His supremacy over all things, ideas, and perceptions. Yet His Word commands us to pursue knowledge and understanding of Him. This is not a contradiction. The Word that decrees that we pursue Him also helps us to understand Him. Solomon captures this thought when he states, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

The prophet Jeremiah declares, “ This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Therefore we are to seek to know God as He is, for who He is, based upon His own revelation of Himself. So let’s be careful as to what means we use to understand and conceptualize God – if it is not based upon His Word it is not really Him or from Him. Let’s not succumb to the fleshly temptation to self-deceptively humanize our transcendent Lord and attempt to create God in our own image.  Instead, let us let us look to Jesus for, ” The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).


“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47). 

In much of my early ministry I was engaged with small churches in small places. Forgive me, but I had forgotten the profound value of these places, people, and pastors in the kingdom of God. This past Sunday God blessed me to be able to worship in such a place once again and He used the experience to jostle my heart and memory. While visiting this small body of believers I encountered a pervasive sense of Godward purpose, loving community, unpretentious worship, and ground-zero ministry. I was reminded that transformational and dynamic ministry for Christ takes place where the leadership and the people are intimately involved with those they serve and worship with. Something about a smaller gathering facilitates this kind of authentic family, mutual encouragement, Biblical edification, and Christ-centeredness. God also reminded me that we are all subject to the dangers of our worldly misperceptions, that in His reality, “he who is least among you all–he is the greatest” (Luke 9:48). Here are some additional observations:

Before the service the auditorium buzzed with friendly banter, updates on sick family, and hugs. I could not help but notice there was a lot of smiling. No one seemed to care that the building was not new or plush. There was a sense of thanksgiving for what they had been given and for their community in Christ. There was no standard for attire: Some wore suits and dresses, others came in work clothes. All were accepted just as they were with the focus obviously on the internal and not the external.  They exemplified that “the ground at the foot of the cross is always level”. The old hymns of the faith – about His grace, His blood, His love, His cross, and His glory – rang out with enthusiasm and zeal. And this joyful noise reeked with sincerity and had a distinctly worshipful tone. There seemed to be no “stars” in this crowd – instead they lifted their praises to The Bright and Morning Star. 

Unlike many mega-churches, the prayer time was both personal and extended. Names and situations were mentioned one by one. The members also called aloud other needs that may have not been previously stated or printed in the bulletin. The pastor and the people were familiar with each of them. Those so led, accompanied by the minister and their supporters, knelt at the altar. Their pleas silently rose toward their great Provider and Physician. Nothing was scripted– it was simply God’s children making their requests known to their Father.

My spirit and tear ducts were stirred by the pianist’s beautiful offertory rendition of my favorite hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I don’t remember the plate passing by me because my mind was elsewhere. As the melody and lyrics penetrated my heart I had a glimpse of Jesus that was even more lovely than the wonderfully executed notes. In those moments, “the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”. For the first time in my recent memory I was temporarily undistracted by the world or even the service itself. Instead I was momentarily transported and mesmerized by the object of my worship – as I was listening I was looking “full in His wonderful face”. 

The pastor – clearly called of God to love and lead these people in the trenches – preached on “Hypocrisy in the Church”.  Ananias and Sapphira were the object lessons (Acts 5:1-11) and Barnabas was the positive example (Acts 4:32-37). The exposition was clear and convicting. He was both thoroughly prepared and genuinely passionate as he humbly and rightly divided the Word of Truth. As critical as I tend to be of preachers (Former preachers are the worst!) I felt nothing but praise and admiration for this servant leader. I left searching my own heart for the toxic residue of the unkept promises that I have made to my Lord and compelled to seek forgiveness and repentance for my failure to be wholly obedient. 

Because the concluding benediction response – “In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified. In my life, Lord, be glorified” – captured the essence of this experience, I have intentionally omitted any proper names. Why? Because I sensed that these folks were more concerned that their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life than having their names documented in bold letters or promoted with bright lights. I left with the distinct impression they were not engaged with this community of faith for outward appearances, self-promotion, or to create some sort of social or business network. They were there because they loved Jesus and each other. And anything beyond that seemed to matter very little. May the same be true of all of us who claim the infinitely worthy name of Jesus. May we be such ministers in the place that He has called us to love and lead. For, as God clearly reminded me, there really is no such thing as “small places” in His service.


“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28).

In our rabidly materialistic society we are bombarded with the not-so-subtle message that we can have it all and we can have it right now. ING, the financial services company, advertises, “What is Your Number?” and encourages folks to save grotesquely large sums of money so they can “enjoy the retirement you deserve”. The mantra is clearly that we deserve to have the best in this life – accumulate, cherish, selfishly consume, and find meaning in possessions. According to this ideology, the more we gain of these things the greater our satisfaction and enjoyment of this life. “Get all you can and can all you get” is pretty good synopsis of the prevailing recipe for earthly happiness. True disciples of Christ must listen carefully and with keen discernment – this diabolical message is constant in our culture. And it is coming from both inside and outside the professing church. 

The world says that you can never have enough stuff. The Word (Jesus) essentially teaches, “Wrong”! He said just the opposite is true – that if you want to gain a full experience of life you must give up such aspirations. Jesus’ words are, “”Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). He contradicted the “greed is good” mentality by, in some instances, telling His followers to sell all they had and give it to the poor (see Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33).

The paradox is that in Christ we gain what is most important, lasting, and deeply satisfying only by forsaking and abandoning such materialistic aspirations and our worldly desires. Commenting on this passage J. M. Boice said, “There is no salvation apart from cross-bearing”. In other words, we must give to receive. We must lose to gain. In order to have a full experience of life now and forever we must willingly give up our carnal dreams and resources in the service of God. Anytime a believer surrenders his natural desires in order to obey and serve God he is losing his life that he may gain something infinitely greater.

Jesus is teaching by metaphor. But our minds quickly question: How can one give up his life in order to gain his life? How can a believer lose his life for Christ’s sake (i.e., deny himself and take up his cross)? Only through the Holy Spirit can we understand this teaching. However, this passage reveals 4 spiritual concepts related to this that are worthy of our contemplation. These ideas are tied to the use of the Greek word psyche. This word speaks to the eternality of every person’s existence and is translated “life” or “soul”. This clearly delineates the teaching of Christ concerning what really matters:

  • Whoever desires to save (cling to the stuff of) his life will lose it.
  • Whoever loses (surrenders or gives) his life for Christ’s sake will find it.
  • What eternal good is it if a person gains the whole world (every imaginable earthly possession) and loses his own soul?
  • What will a man give in exchange (count as of equal or greater value) than his soul?

So it comes down to a choice – God or materialism. What do we desire and value most? What do we serve most? It was this same thought Jesus was conveying when He proclaimed from the mountainside:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt 6:19-21).

Are we willing to lose our lives (our materialistic aspirations and consumptive urges) that we may gain His immeasurably more valuable life? I pray we don’t let “stuff” get in the way – for even if we obtain all of it we still, in the end, have lost everything of real value. However, if we lose our lives (our “stuff”) to Him we gain the greatest Treasure imaginable; we gain what is truly everything and do so for all of eternity. “ But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”, Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian Christians, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ(Philippians 3:7-8).

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