Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Since I took that test and got my Jonathan Edwards results, it has increased my curiosity about him. As I was looking around online, I stumbled across some resolutions that he made for his life. If you're looking to make any New Year's resolutions, these might be some to add to your list.

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Which Theologian are You?



You scored as Jonathan Edwards. You're the original hellfire-and brimstone preacher and you take God's justice very seriously. You are passionate about preaching and an accomplished theologian.

Friedrich Schleiermacher


80%

Jonathan Edwards


80%

Karl Barth


73%

Anselm


67%

J├╝rgen Moltmann


67%

Augustine


53%

John Calvin


53%

Martin Luther


47%

Charles Finney


33%

Paul Tillich


27%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

So apparently I'm most like Jonathan Edwards and Friedrich Schleiermacher, with a leaning slightly more towards Edwards. (They had me answer a tie-breaker question on the quiz) I'm hoping that my theological resemblance to Schleiermacher doesn't also mean that any books I write will turn out to be dreadfully boring.

Tomorrow's sermon: 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God'. Not really, but ironically, my sermon tomorrow morning is going to be very apocalyptic. We have been doing a daily reading through the New Testament, which we finish this week. I'm preaching from the last chapters of Revelation. Having Hussein put to death this week makes for some interesting applications about how God will bring justice for everyone when Christ returns. We all will eventually reap what we sow. Take the quiz and let me know how it turns out for you.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Merry Christmas From the Adams Family!

It is really not easy to get Dora and Nacho to both be still and looking in the right direction in the right time. But we gave it a shot. Carolina was supposed to leave earlier today, but her flight was delayed, so we decided to get the Christmas pictures in front of our house that we haven't had time to take in the last few days. Tomorrow, Carolina flies to Durango to see her dad. I'll miss her a lot. At any rate, from Mark, Carolina, Dora, & Nacho, "Merry Christmas!" Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 14, 2006

One of My Favorite People

Last Saturday, we had our 2nd annual "Breakfast with Santa" at church. We provide free pictures and a free pancake breakfast for anyone who shows up. It's a way of trying to get better connected with the community where our church is. Most of our members show up and participate, and it is such a wonderful time to visit with each other and do something good that's a lot of fun.

In the picture is one of my favorite people. Her name is Ruth Brown, and she's 94 years old. Her nephew is one of the elders at my church. Recently, she, her brother and his wife all moved to Rose Bud to be closer to family. Aunt Ruth (as I call her) has so much personality. She had always greeted me warmly, when she'd come as a visitor. But when they moved, and placed membership, she caught me on the way out the door one Sunday.

Ruth gave me a huge smile and a warm handshake and then started telling me several things in a lively manner. "I just love you! I think you're great! I think this church is great! I'm so happy to be here! I'm 94 years old, and I've never had any children, but I love all my nieces and nephews like they were my own! I'm so happy to be 94! I love life! I love people! God has blessed me so much!"

Ruth never has anything negative to say, and if she has to address something she isn't fond of, she finds a way to put a positive spin on it. I really enjoy old people who haven't forgotten what it's like to receive the Kingdom of Heaven like a child. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Cat

I haven't posted a weird picture of my cat in a while. She always sleeps in these really bizarre positions. She has pretty well taken over my recliner. It is her preferred place for naps. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's Not My Job!

My friend Brent Whitworth sent me this picture. It is such a great insight into human laziness. "I just get paid to paint the lines...moving limbs is somebody else's job!" Striving for mediocrity. Always doing the bare minimum.

I can't even say how many times a teacher in elementary school said to us, "I don't care if that piece of trash isn't yours and you didn't throw it down...pick it up anyway!"

It's a shame sometimes that adults expect to be treated respectfully, because it would probably do us a lot of good occasionally to have someone fuss at us and say, "Stop being so self-centered!" "It doesn't matter if it isn't your fault. Step up and do the right thing because it's the right thing; not because you have to do it."

Who is going to be a good example if I am not? Who will think that Jesus can make a meaningful difference in their life if I refuse to let my life be changed? Many people's lives are monumental messes; some of their own doing entirely, some with a combination of bad parenting. If I don't have time to make someone's life better, than who will make time?

And if I'm just not willing to be the example and go the extra mile for people in real, tangible ways, then I'd be a lot better off to stop wearing the name "Christian".

James 1:27. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Dani and Nabelan-Kabelan

After the conversion of the Damal people, something very interesting happened. The Dani people were the pompous overlords of the Damal, and as all the Damal began converting enthusiastically to Christianity, they were extremely intrigued.

They sent people to the Damal to inquire about the cause of the excitement. When the reply came that the Damal were rejoicing in the fulfillment of their ancient hope, the Dani were completely shocked. They too had been awaiting the fulfillment of their own concept that they called Nabelan-Kabelan. Nabelan-Kabelan was the belief that one day immortality would return to humankind.

If the Gospel was Hai to the Damal, could it also be Nabelan-Kabelan to the Dani? Gordon and Peggy Larson had been assigned to work with the Dani. As they presented the Gospel to the Dani, it was the warriors who became the most interested. They spoke of a man named Jesus who could not only raise others from the dead, but himself as well.

Everything fell into place for the Dani just as it had for the Damal. Their ancient longing for immortality was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Word spread quickly from valley to valley. The once barbarous Dani people listened to the Message, they felt compunction mixed with joy, and upon their conversion they were added to the Lord's body.

The Damal and the Hai

The Damal people are located in Irian Jaya. Just a couple of decades ago, they were living in the Stone Age. There is a much more politically powerful tribe called the Dani. The Damal lived as a subservient tribe.

For who knows how long, the Damal people spoke longingly of a concept called hai. Hai was a long-anticipated golden age; a sort of Stone Age utopia where there would be no more fighting, no wars, men would stop oppressing one another, and sickness would have all but disappeared.

A Damal leader named Mugumenday had yearned all of his life to see the advent of hai. Finally he grew old, and near the end of his life, he called his son Dem to his side. He told him, "My son, hai has not come during my lifetime. Now you must watch for hai. Perhaps it will come before you die."

Completely oblivious to all of this, several years later, some missionary couples entered the Damal valley where Dem lived. They first spent time learning the Damal language, and then began to teach the gospel. Many of the Damal people thought it was polite to at least listen to their message.

One day as they were preaching to them, Dem--now a grown man--stood up and spoke, "Oh, my people, how long our forefathers waited for hai. How sadly my father died without seeing it. But now, don't you understand, these strangers have brought hai to us! We must believe their words, or we will miss the fulfillment of our ancient expectation."

As a result, nearly the entire population welcomed the Gospel. Within a few years, there was a congregation in every Damal village.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Sawi "Peace Child"

Don Richardson and his wife went as missionaries to the Sawi people. They gradually learned the language, and learned more about the culture, and sought to teach them the gospel. As they studied with them through the Gospel, they were in for the shock of their lives when they saw how the Sawi people reacted to Judas' betrayal. They began laughing and really hee-hawing at what happened to Jesus, and championed Judas as the hero of the story with Jesus as the loser. They considered treachery one of the greatest virtues.

The Richardsons were very shocked and confused, and really didn't know how they were going to win these people to Christ when they had such a skewed view of what true virtue is.

In the meantime, there started to be battles between the Sawi and one of the neighboring villages. These had been sporadic in the past, but they kept getting worse and worse with no resolution. Finally, the Richardsons informed the Sawi that unless the warring stopped, they would have to move away because it wasn't safe for them anymore. The Sawi had considered it an honor to have the missionaries living among them, and took this ultimatum very seriously.

Finally, one of the leading men stepped up to make peace. The Sawi culture has a special means of making peace with an enemy tribe. A father who has a healthy baby son will take his own son and in a public gathering with the enemy, will entrust his son to an enemy father to raise the child as his own. They referred to the baby as a "Peace Child". This was an enormous sacrifice for the family and the tribe, but it was a fairly sure way to have peace.

At this very emotional and crucial juncture, Richardson found a perfect redemptive analogy. He was able to present Christ as God's "Peace Child". This resonated deeply with the Sawi, who soon began to grasp the redemptive story of God as the greatest Father, giving his one and only son for the sins of the world, to reconcile alienated people. As of today, about 70% of the Sawi are Christians.

Redemptive Analogies

I'm currently in a Global Evangelism course at Harding with Dr. Stan Granberg. Though I'm a person who cares a lot for missions, I have not taken many courses in missions. If I had to pick between a missions course and a textual or theological course, I'd pick the textual/theological stuff every time.

But the MDiv requires me to be diverse, and to learn about all different aspects of Christianity, including missions. I've said up to this point that I have not taken a single class at the grad school that has not been worth my time and money. I still maintain this stance.

I think the most interesting thing I've come across in this course is the concept of Redemptive Analogies, described by Don Richardson in the book Perspectives On The World Christian Movement.

A Redemptive Analogy is what a missionary uses as a bridge between the Gospel and one's culture. If we can find an aspect of culture that helps people appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus, then it becomes more real to them.

Jesus himself did this. All Jews would know about Moses lifting up the serpent of brass upon a pole so that the Jews, dying of snake bites, could look at it and be healed. Jesus told Nicodemus that "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Jesus here used a redemptive analogy.

There are several redemptive analogies that Richardson lays out in his chapter. I think they are so cool, and I am going to make a few posts relaying some of the ones he describes. What we find over and over is that God is at work in the mission field long before we get there. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 30, 2006

One For My Wife...

It's a lot of fun being married to a person from another country. Here's a story that has a lot of truth in it:

Once there was a mouse hole with three mice inside. One day they decided to go for a walk, but suddenly they heard a cat meowing. The mice were afraid and did not go for a walk. One of the mice listened carefully to see if the cat was still there or had left. After a long while they didn't hear any more "meows" of the cat, instead they heard a dog barking. So they all left the mouse hole. When they left, how surprised they were to see the cat there again waiting for them. The mice were not able to return to their hiding place and the cat ate them all. And the cat was very happy that he had tricked them. The cat exclaimed loudly: "How great it is to be bilingual."

Not to mention that having a bilingual wife like mine will get you preferential treatment at Mexican restaurants.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Only Ask For Daily Bread?

Last Sunday night, I preached on the Lord's prayer. I have a tendency to want to shy away from doing sermon topics that everyone has already studied a gazillion times. However, the reason we tend to study certain passages multiple times is because they are really good passages, and are worth repeating. Fred Craddock once pointed out that a preacher doesn't need to only use the latter half of an unfrequently studied minor prophet to find something refreshing for his listeners. Even the 'good old' stories continue to have great meaning for us.

I sat down and read through the prayer several times. I made a little chart and tried to analyze each line from several approaches, looking for things I hadn't caught before. Following Randy Harris' advice, I tried to approach it from the angle, "If I were to take this verse as being true and necessary for my life, what does it mean I would have to do differently?"

It's a pretty powerful prayer when you stop and consider what demands you make of yourself when you pray things like, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." If you have time, sit and read through that prayer, asking what each part of it demands of you. "What do I need to do differently in my life to be able to justifiably say this to God?"

I was particularly intrigued when I thought about the advantages of praying only for my 'daily bread'. I've seen some big crazes (such as Prayer of Jabez) where people say, "Pray that your territory will be expanded! That God will give you more and bless you more! Think of how much stuff you miss out on because you don't ask for it!" ...Yet Jesus only asked for daily bread.

So I started thinking, what if I only ask God to give me the bare essentials? "God, today I would love to have a couple of square meals to eat, and safety from any major injuries." If all I ask for is enough to get by, God's generosity very quickly becomes overwhelming.

So for the last few days, I've limited the prayer requests for myself to asking for the bare necessities. But this morning, I woke up with plenty more than what I requested. I not only have a place to lay my head; it happens to be a top-of-the-line Serta mattress with a comfy pillow (not to mention my beautiful wife sleeping next to me); located in my well-furnished bedroom, in my spacious house with an excellent heating and cooling system. I drove to work in my more-than-adequate truck listening to whatever I felt like on my iPod. Not only did I have bread to eat; I had pretty well whatever else I wanted with a variety of toppings and condiments to enhance the flavor. My health is good, my family is good, and I like my job.

What a blessed person I am. I challenge you to start only requesting what you need from God, then compare that to what he is actually giving to you, and his generosity will overwhelm you. It has me. And with such great blessings is bound to come great responsibilities...but I'll save that one for another post.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Blogiversary!

I just had to point out that I have now been blogging for one year. It's been a lot of fun. My friend Justin at the grad school was reading these mysterious web pages by people I knew, and then he showed me his (called 'heptide') and explained to me that these things are called "Blogs". And I thought, "I'd like to try that." So now it's one year later and I've made about 170 posts, and have had over 4,000 visitors. Pretty cool! It has been a great way to keep in touch with old friends and with my family whom I don't get to see very often. I've always wanted to keep a diary, but I much prefer typing to writing, and I like the connectedness of the internet. So this is a good fit. As of right now, I have no intentions of slowing down. Perpetual Timothy will keep rocking.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Best Teaching Advice I've Gotten So Far

I mentioned to you all a few posts ago that I will be teaching an OT Survey at Harding this Spring, and many of you responded either on this blog or on facebook with kind words, that I have appreciated. I've asked your advice for how I should teach. I've gotten lots of clever comments, but I don't think any tops what my friend Robert sent me. Though it contains a few inside jokes, I'm attaching it for your amusement:

Hey Mark,

I haven't talked to you since learning that you got the OT teaching job at Harding. I just want to say congratulations! With that, I have a few thoughts that might help you get started.

1. The first thing you need to do is get respect from your students. On or before the first day of class, start a rumor around school that you killed a kid at your last teaching job. There are many ways to do this, such as making anonymous phone calls to students, using your underground network of friends, or making a chapel announcement. When students fear you, they'll respect you.

2. Since you are teaching Old Testament, approach your class with the understanding that nothing you teach will actually be relevant to the students. I mean, Mark, It's the OLD Testament. This is HARDING University. Not the Yom Kippur Center for Kids Who Can't Slaughter Animals Good. In fact, on your syllabus, make it clear to the students that none of the information they will be taking in during your class will ever be useful in any way, shape or form. Stapled to the back of that syllabus should be H_____'s Discourse on Jesus and Grace. Followed by D_____'s review on said discourse (Well, H_____!).

3. As far as textbooks go, there was one good one I had in mind but I keep forgetting what it's called. Wait, i think I remember now. Aww man I lost it. Maybe it'll come back later. I know you'll want to take a scholarly approach to the Old Testament, so you need look no further than the greatest OT scholar of our time, Max Lucado. I mean, seriously, if you aren't just enlightened and captivated by his superior intellect and skill, you have no soul. Oh, hey, I finally remember the name of that textbook! It's called....THE BIBLE.

All joking aside, I know you'll do a great job. I look forward to your visit in a week!
-Robert

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

From Now On You Can Call Me "Professor"

I have some news that I'm happy about. I have often thought that one day I might like to try and teach at a Christian University, but I envisioned it being when I was a middle-age guy with my PhD. It's happening much sooner than that. Harding is going to give me a chance next semester. That either says good things about me (I'm reasonably talented and a good student) or it says bad things about Harding (they're desperate for teachers). Hopefully it's more of the former.

Starting this Spring, I will be an adjunct Bible professor (I'll still be preaching full-time at Rose Bud) and will be teaching a freshmen-level Old Testament Survey class. This will give me a chance to find out several things:

1. Do I like doing this, or would I rather stick with preaching for the rest of my life? Perhaps my life will always be some of both.

2. Am I any good at this? I may try and figure out that my talents don't line up well with what's needed in a professor. I might also find out the opposite is true.

And in line with the other two, hopefully:
3. What are my long-term plans for what I will do, where I will live, and what I will study? I've debated a lot whether I should stick around this area or look for ministry opportunities at other locations.

I'm very flattered to get the chance to do this, and am extremely excited. I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about after I get this thing going. Right now I'm working on picking out what textbook(s) I will require, and what my lesson plans will be.

For any of you who had an Old Testament Survey class, what did you like most/least about what you studied?
Is there anything I should make an extra effort to include/uninclude?
If you could only pick one or two passages from the OT that need to be studied and emphasized, what would they be?

I'm confident that this will be challenging since it's new, but I intend to work my tail off to give these kids the best class that I possibly can. Please keep me in your prayers. This is a great blessing and a great responsibility. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

What God Cares About

Have you ever had anyone try to stump you with some question about God that they think is really profound, but is actually sort of pointless? Can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it? Can God make a square circle? Can God count to infiniti?

It's kind of like the guy who said he doesn't believe in God because he tried praying, and God 'didn't answer' his prayer. He said, "I decided that I'd try praying, so I prayed every day that God would give me a new red Camaro. After a year, I didn't get it, so therefore I figured that prayer and God is all worthless myth." As if God's most important function in the cosmos is to give me toys.

It seems that we have far too small of a view of what God wants. When I wrestle with what God would want me to do in a given situation, or how I ought to spend my time or efforts, I've found John 10:10 to be a helpful verse. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

You can pretty well insert whatever you want into this last part of the verse, and it gets a lot easier to clarify what God really cares about. Think about God coming--putting on flesh as a human--and dying...for what purpose? Allow me to give a couple of examples:

'I have come that they may have red Camaros, and have them abundantly.'
'I have come that they may have money, and have it abundantly.'
'I have come that they may have designer clothing, and have the trendiest outfits of the season.'
'I have come that they may have larger houses in gated communities, and have mortgage payments abundantly.'
'I have come that they may have respect from other self-centered people, and have it abundantly.'

Do we see how out of place things get when you try putting the words in Jesus' mouth?

Yet other things fit better:
'I have come that they may have forgiveness, and have it to the full.'
'I have come that the heavily burdened may find rest, and find it abundantly.'
'I have come that they may have hope, and have it abundantly.'
'I have come that the wounded and oppressed might find healing, and experience it abundantly.'

What in this world is truly worth living and dying for? Whatever these things are, these are what we should be striving towards. God doesn't waste his magesty on the trivial, and the glory he's shared with us as his children should not be wasted either.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17) May God forgive us for when we exchange his glory for the petty and the ephemeral. Posted by Picasa

An Odd Story - Part III

And now to connect parts I and II...

(Do not read unless you've read the first two...you'll appreciate it more)

This friend of Bob's took Don out in to the hall to tell him something odd that happened to Bob and gave him a phobia of large cats.

This friend (we'll call him Jim) worked at Wal-Mart distribution with Bob. Jim liked Bob, though Bob had it within him to get on a person's nerves if he set his mind to it. Bob had bugged Jim for several weeks that he really wanted to go hunting with him. As a way of adding the pressure, Bob went and bought his own equipment. He bought hunting clothes to wear, some various supplies, and a brand new rifle. With all this constant begging, Jim decided to give Bob a chance, and so they picked a date to go hunting together.

On the day of the hunt, Bob got all his new equipment together, and went very early in the morning to the woods with Jim. Jim had intentions of going in a certain direction, and pointed where he thought Bob should go to start looking for a place to settle and hunt.

Not long after this, Bob came running back to their meeting point as fast as he could. He was pale and shivering, and he had none of his equipment with him. He was so hysterical he could hardly speak. Jim finally got him calmed down enough to tell him what had happened. Bob's story was something like this:

'After you pointed me where to go, I went a little ways out into the woods, when I realized that I needed to relieve myself. So I found a pretty large tree, got up next to it, and squatted to take care of business. I didn't know it, but there was a panther up in this tree that I hadn't seen. When I squatted down, that panther jumped down and attacked me! The sound it made chills me to the bone when I think about it...That panther was screaming just like a woman when it attacked me! I ran off as fast as I could, and managed to escape.'

Jim asked, "But what about your stuff? Did you at least get your rifle?" Bob said, "I was too busy running for my life to even worry about it. I don't care what happened to my stuff."

At this point, Don was able to put the pieces of this puzzle together, and had a nice laugh. No one ever bothered to tell Frank's wife or Bob what had actually happened.

An Odd Story - Part II

Don had another friend (we'll call him Frank). Frank was an avid hunter, who happened to be married. As is the case with many guys who are too dedicated to their hobbies, Frank spent too much time hunting, to the frustration of his wife. She decided to make the best of the situation, and approached Frank one day to tell him she wanted to go hunting with him.

As far as Frank was concerned, that was the best thing any woman could have ever said to him, and it was even better coming from his wife. So he went to work, making sure her hunting experience would be the best it could possibly be. He bought her a new rifle, new gear, and spent some time picking out a good place to put her in a tree stand. After getting a spot, he helped her learn how to shoot from the tree stand, and made targets for target practice. Finally the big day came.

Frank and his wife went to the woods early in the morning, and he took her to her stand, helped her up, then explained to her, "Honey, I'm going to be about 100 yards away in that direction. If you need anything, anything, you just call for me and I'll run here as fast as my legs will take me. You'll do great. If you need anything, just let me know."

He marched over to his tree stand, and not more than 10 minutes later, he heard his wife start screaming bloody murder. He hopped down from his own stand, and ran to her as fast as he could go, terrified of what had happened to her. When he got there, she was actually back up in her tree stand, but she was weaping, and was very emotionally jarred. He asked her what was the matter.

With sobs and tears she explained, "Honey, not long after you left...::sniff sniff::...I heard this noise near me, and I looked down, and there was this huge varmint below me. ::sniff sniff:: I got so scared I fell out of this stand on top of it, then it took off into the woods, and I climbed back into my tree stand as fast as I could. I was so scared!"

As he consoled his wife, he couldn't help but notice a brand new rifle sitting beside the tree that wasn't hers or his. It was in great shape, so it couldn't have been sitting there for many days. No dew had accumulated on it. He thought it was odd, but hey, free rifle! So they took the rifle home, and after that experience, he knew it was unlikely that his wife would ever want to go hunting again.

(Stay tuned for part III)

An Odd Story - Part I

This is something my elder, Don, was telling me about. There are a couple of different pieces to the puzzle of this situation, which I'll make in different posts.

Don had a friend who was in the hospital, so he went to visit him. Don always likes to try and share jokes or funny stories, so while this guy sat in his hospital bed, Don told him a joke about a large cat that Don thought was pretty funny. Upon telling the joke about the large cat, the other people present laughed except for the man in the bed (we'll call him 'Bob'). Bob responded by turning slightly pale and pulling his covers up tight against him, similar to a child hiding from the boogie-man. Later, a friend present invited Don out to the hall to tell him a story.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ch...Ch...Ch...Ch...Changes...

Carolina is taking a graphic design class. It seems that one can't design graphics these days without a Mac. We managed to find an incredible deal on a slightly older iMac. I set it up on her desk, and will wait to see how she likes it when she gets home from her class. This is quite a change for us, as we've never had one of these before. I've wanted a Mac for a long time, but they're too expensive. I just found the right deal at the right time, and here it is! If we like it, we may stick with Macs in the future. Of course, I'm blogging this on my PC. ;-) Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 28, 2006

Studies on Grizzly Bears

A Russian scientist and a Czechoslovakian scientist had spent their lives studying the grizzly bear. Each year they petitioned their respective governments to allow them to go to Yellowstone to study the bears.

Finally, their request was granted, and they immediately flew to Yellowstone. They reported to the ranger station and were told that it was the grizzly mating season and it was too dangerous to go out and study the animals. They pleaded that this was their only chance, and finally the ranger relented.

The Russian and the Czech were given portable phones and told to report in every day. For several days they called in, and then nothing was heard from the two scientists. The rangers mounted a search party & found the camp completely ravaged, with no sign of the missing men.

Following the trails of a male and a female bear, they finally caught up with the female. Fearing an international incident, they decided they must kill the animal to find out if she had eaten the scientist.

They killed the female and opened the stomach to find the remains of the Russian scientist.

One ranger turned to the other and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"

The other ranger nodded and responded . . .

"I guess it means the Czech is in the male."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One other one...

I just had to put this out here, especially for Stoned-Campbell's sake, since he knows Bob Hendren well. This is the person who wrote the Sola Gratia articles. As I found out here, he has always been quite bright. This is from a 1965 issue of the Minister's Monthly with Foy Wallace, Jr. on the cover. Posted by Picasa

the Minister's Monthly



I recently painted our office room, and had to move a lot of stuff--including my bookshelf--to get the job done. My grandfather has been preaching for more than 50 years. Several times now, he has brought me a load of books that he doesn't use much any more. There have been so many of them, it has taken me quite a while to sort through them all. Some of my favorites are the debates he's given me, such as the Warren-Flew debate and the Woods-Nunnery debate.

I started off thinking the other day that I would have to find some books to set aside, since my shelf is overflowing, and I figured that since these books are decades older than many other books I have, I might have to pick a few of them to put into storage. I figured the most likely thing to go would be some old periodicals that my grandfather had collected. I had them all in a stack on a high shelf. I got them down to thumb through them.

After my recent rant about preaching journals, I'm happy to announce that I found some that I actually like. Yes my friends, I am the proud owner of numerous volumes of The Minister's Monthly from around 1958-1965. These contain articles by many prominent ministers from churches of Christ during this time period, and several biographical sketches. There's one great on on Bob Hendren, whose articles I had recently been posting about Grace. Then there's old Foy Wallace, Jr., Guy Woods, Batsell Barrett Baxter, and E. Claude Gardner. I'm anticipating that of all the people reading this blog, the most likely to care about this would be the Stoned-Campbell Disciple (he's an expert on Restoration history and literature).

For any of you Harding folks, I decided to scan and post this one. Can you even recognize Howard Norton? This was WAY back in the day. I intend to go by his office sometime soon to show this to him. I'm curious how he'll react to it. Hopefully, it will be a fond memory for him.

At any rate, I need to thank my Granddad again for giving me these. It was kind of like Jesus' parable about finding a treasure in a field, except that I already own the field. Pretty cool. As I have time to read through these, I might have more musings about them.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

All of the Sola Gratia postings

If you are at all interested in the subject of grace, and liked the articles I've been posting, I have made them into a .pdf file that you can view or download here. Bob Hendren did a great job on these, and I hope you get as much benefit from them as I have.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

She Got Her Green Card!

We have had a very important week. For one, our friends, Bryan and Dana Dill, got to spend most of the week with us at our house. We used to hang with them when they were at Harding. Now Bryan preaches for the Holly Hill congregation in Frankfort, KY where he's been for about a year. He was in town preaching a gospel meeting at the Pangburn Church of Christ. We got to go hear him on Tuesday, and he did a great job.
We had to leave them at our house along last night, because this morning in Memphis we had a very important appointment. You may remember a post from a couple of months ago where we were featured in a story on the 10:00 news about legal immigration. This morning was our big appointment. We've been waiting two years for this. We got out every legal document that we own, with lots of personal pictures (you have to prove to the government that you actually love each other and have a relationship to help prevent mail-order brides). We prayed a lot, and asked our friends to pray a lot.
We spent the night with our friends Robert and Angela at their new apartment in Memphis, which was about 10 minutes away from the National Security office. We got there at 7:30am, got in line, and they took us shortly thereafter. We went into the room, were greeted by a couple of friendly people, and led to an office. He just asked to see our proof of identification, asked us how we met each other, asked for some proof that we shared assets and some pictures of us, and that was it. He said, "Since you've been married for two years, you'll be in great shape. You should get your green card in the mail in about two weeks. It will be good for ten years. You can work, travel, and do whatever you want. After three years, you'll be elligible for citizenship. Good luck!" We were thrilled to death. We got out of there at about 7:50am (our appointment had been scheduled for 8:00). Carolina called a lot of our relatives and friends to tell them the good news. After that, we went shopping around Memphis with Robert and Angela.
They took us to a place called World Market where I spotted these. Every year Alpha Tau (my social club at Harding) has a Toga mixer to meet potential new members. Everyone comes dressed in a sheet, prepared to guzzle lots and lots of IBC rootbeer and cream soda. I found this luxurious Virgil's brand rootbeer in one-gallon kegs, so I got two of them. I plan to get a couple of more, which I believe ought to be plenty for our mixer. These are just really well-decorated, not to mention the rootbeer is of the highest quality. Carolina posed for a rock 'n roll shot above. I just think these are so cool. I have to give credit to T Burns who introduced me for the first time to Virgils.
This was a day of cool surprises, but most importantly, answered prayers. For two years, we've been hoping that everything would work out for Carolina to get her green card. We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sola Gratia - Part V

Part V

The Faith – Commitment To God’s Grace!

Has the response of faith added anything to the merits of the cross? Not at all, for man has only come back down the same road along which he departed from God. He left God mentally and emotionally, and now he seeks the God who can restore him to his right mind and right inner being. But, in Paul’s analysis of sin in Romans 1:24ff, we noted that man had also been alienated from God in another way—physically.

The Response of Faith Adds Nothing To the Merits Of The Cross

But here is where we reach a tremendous barrier in our thinking. We do not think of the physical as having much of anything to do with a person’s spirituality. The whole person’s needs are frequently short-handed down to only emotional and mental needs. William Barrett was certainly right when he identified this strange mind-set:

Protestant man had thrown off the husk of his body. He was a creature of

spirit and inwardness, but no longer the man of flesh and belly, bones and blood, that we find in the Bible. Irrational Man, pp. 75-76.

An amazing return to Neoplatonic ideas of the body seems to have occurred since the Seventeenth Century. Is this a Scriptural view of man? Can faith be valid apart from the necessary return of physical man to God?

Our problem with sinfulness is not limited to our intellect and inner man. We are neck and shoulders deep in sinning with our bodies also. God has come in Christ (a physical incarnation) to deal with the sin of the whole person. Christ died on the cross (a physical death) to redeem the whole person. Jesus was raised from the dead (a physical resurrection) for our future welfare as whole persons. God gives His Holy Spirit to indwell our physical bodies (1 Corinthians 6), and intends to raise us bodily and give us a physical existence in a resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:42ff). God does not despise bodies!

Christ did not despise a physical response to our needs. He actually because involved with sinful persons on every level of existence. Christ was intellectually, emotionally, and physically committed to our salvation. We must make a faith-commitment to God’s grace with this same totality of experience.

Baptism Is Not Something Added To Faith, It Is Faith

Baptism is the point at which faith in Christ makes a physical response to the cross and open tomb (Romans 6:3-6). Baptism is not something added to faith, it is faith. As James Denney, in his classic The Death of Christ, indicates in his discussion of Paul’s argument for the new life in Christ in terms of the encounter of baptism:

He is able to use [baptism] in his argument in the way he does because baptism and faith are but the outside and inside of the same thing…

“Baptism,” as Albert Schweitzer wisely remarked, “is not a staircase, but an elevator.” It is not a human work of righteousness, but a work of God Himself, a creative encounter from which the new man in Christ receives his faith-form. The Bible affirms this quite strongly:

Buried with Him in the act of baptism, in whom you were raised together through faith in the activity of God who raised Him from the dead…(Colossians 2:12).

We had faith; God worked. We added nothing to the cross; we surrendered to it as whole persons. God does the work in our baptismal surrender out of which comes a new life in the Spirit (John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

When baptism is seen as a response wholly appropriate to our need as sinners its meaning as “for the remission of sins” is clearly comprehended. J.R. Mantey, the great Baptist scholar, says it with profound insight:

When one considers in Ac. 2:38 repentance as self-renunciation and

baptism as a public expression of self-surrender and self-dedication to Christ,

which significance it certainly had in the first century, the expression ‘eis aphesin

ton hamartion humon’ may mean ‘for the purpose of the remission of sins’. But if

one stresses baptism, without its early Christian import, as a ceremonial means of

salvation, he does violence to Christianity as a whole, for one of its striking

distinctions from Judaism and Paganism is that it is a religion of salvation by

faith while all others teach salvation by works. (Quoted in H.E. Dana and Julius

R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 104.)

Baptism Is Important Because Christ Is Important

Dr. Mantey is certainly correct. Baptism from a New Testament perspective is a faith surrender to God’s grace. Baptism is important because Christ is important.

Baptism is so intimately connected with faith in the New Testament that to administer it apart from faith is to destroy its meaning entirely. Faith is a comprehensive response and all of its components are directed toward Jesus Christ.

For all are God’s sons through faith in Christ Jesus, for those who were

baptized into Christ became clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26,27).

Faith Is A Comprehensive Response—None Of Its Components Should Be Exalted Over Another

The Scripture upholds a view of faith which calls upon the whole person to come to Christ. Mankind is asked to respond to God’s grace with all his being. One component of faith should not be exalted over another. They are all important, because without all, faith is incomplete.

A radio may be spoken of as consisting of several components. Most radios have a signal detection stage, a tuning stage, and an amplification stage. Now if someone asked: “Which stage is the real radio?” We could not answer “the detection stage” or “the amplification stage” for each on its own is not a radio. But, when all the stages are working together it is still only one radio. So with faith in the New Testament. Even though it is a response to God’s grace which includes an intellectual, emotional, and physical aspect, it is still only faith.

Such is the nature of God’s grace. When it is appreciated and seen in its multi-varied form, it is a magnificent call for the salvation of our entire being. We must express our faith to this grace in a total response. God’s grace calls for nothing less than this.

________________

All translations are the author’s own.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sola Gratia - Part IV

Part IV

What Is Faith?

One who believes he can create his own response to grace is dismissing the very channel God has provided for access to His grace. Salvation is “by grace through faith.” Whoever has read Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:3-8, and many other passages too numerous to mention, will arrive rapidly at that conclusion. In fact, no other conclusion could be reached. The concept of salvation by grace through faith is simply not debatable; it cannot even be questioned! The real question, though, is not whether we are saved by grace through faith, but “What is faith?”

The Real Question Is Not Whether We Are Saved By Grace Through Faith, But “What Is Faith?”

“What is faith?” Our temptation may be to answer this question from a historical perspective, or from a pre-digested theological stance based on creedal or traditional knowledge. But, can we afford to answer that way? Would we not be required by the sheer need for grace to answer: “Faith means whatever God has said that it means.” We know already that God’s definition will not be arbitrary, that it will answer to our real need. What definition does the New Testament give to faith? If we discover this fairly, should it not become our working definition which outlines for us the meaning of the faith response? We want to avoid all merely traditional answers and allow God to define faith for us. It is a radical inquiry, but can we be content with less?

We noted earlier that man’s sinfulness had invaded his whole being (Romans 1:24-28). We would expect, then, that God’s delineation of the faith response would be appropriate to this total need. This is precisely where the apostolic message of grace centers. Man’s sinfulness is mental, emotional, and physical in nature. We know that man’s outlook is sinful in perspective. His mentality is futile, vain, insensitive to God (Ephesians 4:17ff). We would expect that the apostolic definition of faith would say something about the human mental attitude.

This it uniformly does. The intelligent life of man is so dwarfed by sinfulness that he is constantly reminded to “repent,” which means to change his mental outlook radically. The initial proclamation of the Gospel on this side of the resurrection of Jesus occurs in Acts 2. The restored Peter preaches a sermon which centers on Jesus as the risen Messiah. When God’s message breaks through the wall of sinfulness surrounding the hearts of the persons listening, they are moved to shout: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). If Peter possessed any divine knowledge of the human need and the God-given answer he would surely have used it here. In fact he did:

Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in reliance upon the name of Jesus so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift (vs. 38).

At this point in his sermon Peter addressed the mental problem head on. “Repent” he said to the lot of them. Repent is from the verb metanoein, which incorporates two words, meta (change) and nous (the mind). Metanoein means to alter one’s thinking in a radical manner. God’s grace had confronted these people with the fact of their own sinfulness and then graciously offered them the way back to His favor. The first move in that direction is to alter one’s mental outlook so that one perceives the sinful condition of the soul and recoils from it. This is the creation of a wholly new mental perspective that delivers from insensitivity to sin. Without this nothing further is possible, for people who will not open their minds to God cannot be helped by Him.

People Who Will Not Open Their Minds To God Cannot Be Helped By Him

God makes this possible. In Acts 10 the same Peter visits, reluctantly, the Gentile home of Cornelius. Later, in accounting for this unprecedented intrusion into a Gentile’s home, Peter explains to the inquiring brethren that God had ordered this new direction. Cornelius was to hear words “by which you and all your house will be saved” (Acts 11:14). The investigators rejoiced at God’s gracious reaching out to the Gentiles in these words: “God has indeed given to the Gentiles repentance unto life” (vs. 18). God had made it possible for Gentiles to find repentance as He had caused His Word to be preached unto them.

Our repentance adds nothing to the cross. It is the first necessary move of faith that we make to receive God’s grace. This action is possible because God makes it possible. God’s word has furnished the spiritual realities about our distorted mental state which brings the necessity of repentance home to us. Only God’s thoughts are powerful enough to deliver a perverted mind.

Man’s emotional life, as Paul outlined in Romans 1:26, is also perverted. In returning to God there is a need to re-orient the heart of man. The Bible does not use the word “emotion” in quite the same way we do today, but the heart of man is recognized in Scripture as that combination of perception and feeling which needs to center on God. “You shall love the Lord you God with your whole heart…” Jesus directs in Matthew 22:37. Here the heart is distinguished from the soul (psuche) and the reasoning power of man (dianoia). The heart (kardia), according to Arndt-Gingrich in their A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, frequently means “the source and center of the whole inner life” (p. 404).

The analysis conducted by Paul in Romans 1:18ff on man’s sinfulness demonstrated that man had a problem with sin in all his being. The physical distress of dishonoring the body (vs. 24) grew out of “lusts of the heart.” This same connection is maintained in verse 26 where their passions (emotions) are dishonorable. In other words sin has gripped man’s inner being and his emotions and physical body are used in the service of sin. We have seen where man has to come back to God mentally; now we see man has to come back to God from the center of his being, his emotional and volitional life.

Faith requires that sinful persons make a heart-decision about Christ. The center of man’s being must cry out to the One who has the power to deliver him from his sin. Mankind must admit the centrality of Christ and admit also His claim to be Lord and Savior. Paul points to this truth in Romans 10:

Because if you will admit (confess) with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; for if this is believed with the heart justification results, and if this is admitted to (confessed) with the mouth salvation results (vss. 9,10).

The form of this though is parallel. Justification and salvation are synonymns (sic) for the same process, not separate actions. There is to be no separation between what the heart believes and what the mouth confesses. What happens in this faith-admission? The inner being of man cries out to the Lord Jesus for cleansing and a new center. No longer will the lusts of the heart be dominant in such a life:

Now let thanks be expressed to God because though you were sin’s slaves you obeyed from the heart that type of teaching you were committed unto (Romans 6:17).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sola Gratia - Part III

Part III

Man’s Response to God’s Grace

What a tragedy it would be if mankind neglected this priceless grace of God. In World War II a sinking Nazi ship was approached by a British rescue vessel. The Nazi sailors spit at their would-be rescuers and refused to be saved. Sinners certainly have this option, but what a sad waste it would be. Even God will not impose life on an unwilling sinner. You cannot keep life in what is determined to die. Man must respond to this loving outreach of God for grace to be effective in redemption.

Even God Will Not Impose Life On An Unwilling Sinner

When a person appreciates the work of the cross, its adequacy for salvation, and its unique nature, he or she will want to know how it may become a factor in one’s life. The preachers of ‘good news’ in the New Testament, as any casual reading of the book of Acts will show, were not slow to communicate the necessity of a response to God’s grace. Thought they never conceived the idea that the human response deserved God’s grace, they did affirm its necessity. Paul’s famous grace-faith statement in Ephesians 2 is a clear model of this approach. A somewhat literal translation follows:

For by the grace you are in a saved condition through faith. And this

circumstance does not originate in you. It is God’s gift; not originating in works,

lest anyone should boast, for we are his created thing, having been created in

Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we could

walk around in them (vss. 8-10).

I prepared this clumsy translation only to illustrate certain points in the text. Notice the definite article in front of ‘grace.’ This article, which is in the original in verse 8, serves to contrast ‘grace’ in verse 8 with the more general use of the same work in 2:5 above. There (vs. 5) grace without the article means that the Divine solution to our deadness in sin is a grace solution. The quality of God’s salvation is grace. Verse 8 makes grace much more specifically available, saying in effect, that the very grace alluded to above as God’s answer to sin is actually available to humans on the basis of faith.

Grace is what places us in a saved situation. “Saved” is a perfect participle indicating our present state is “saved” because of God’s gracious forgiveness of sin. This forgiveness became a reality when we responded in faith to His grace. Then Paul reminds the reader that the entire circumstance—of there being grace to save, of faith as a possible response, and of salvation itself, all is God’s gift. The word ‘this’ in ‘this circumstance’ is a neuter pronoun, which of course would not agree grammatically with faith (pistis, a feminine noun), grace (charis, a feminine noun), or saved (masculine participle). Neuters like ‘this’ are used to sum up the thought of the entire section. Paul is stressing that grace and salvation are from God, yes, but even faith itself is possible because of God! Even our faith possibilities come from God.

God makes faith possible. If God had not graciously sent Christ into our world, in what would we have had faith? Faith in faith certainly does not save. Faith in Christ saves, not faith in faith. But we are totally dependent upon God’s action and revelation of Christ to find out about this possibility. We could never have dreamed up such a radical solution on our own. God’s word in the Good News about Christ is the source of all our salvation possibilities.

God’s Revelation Has Made It Possible For Man To Respond To God.

God being the source of our faith possibilities leads us to realize another wonderful truth. Even the response we humans make to grace is a gift from God. That is to say, we who are sinners cannot create our own response. We can respond, thank God, but it will have to be to what God has revealed. In this sense we see that even our response is an extension of God’s grace, because God’s revelation has made it possible. If we decide to substitute any other response at this point it will be futile since only faith can answer to grace. God, not man, revealed this. The response we make is grace extending itself into our lives. To create our own response would be a true abrogation of grace, for grace takes hold of our concrete lives only in the response of faith revealed by God in the Good News about Christ.

God Has Made It Possible For Us To Be Saved—We Must Make The Appropriate Response To The Real Solution

Just any response will not do. The response must be appropriate to the situation. After all, we cannot create our own physical universe—why should we think we can create our own spiritual universe? Conditions in the physical universe do not respond on the basis of our wishful thinking. We cannot wake up and desire the sky to become yellow, the grass purple, or birds to live like moles in the earth. These things do not respond to our whims; what makes us think God will? We accept the reality we find in the physical universe and adjust to it. The same thing is true in the realm of the spiritual.

An airplane pilot, for example, does not create the possibility of flight. No matter how clever, how warm, how witty, he has to accept the reality of the universe and fly on that basis. He could not announce to the passengers: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen; welcome aboard Flight 901, which I will graciously permit to become airborne today, and which, as I decide, will stay in the air until we reach our destination.” In fact, his decision to become airborne is a possibility only when he operates to conform to conditions already there long before he ever became a pilot. The action of air-foils in motion and their properties is a function of the real universe. The pilot did not invent them, though by skill and the proper equipment he is able to take advantage of them.

In a way his knowledge serves only to take advantage of what is already available. If our pilot decided to provide adequate power to the engines, keep the plane on a good heading, observe atmospheric conditions, etc., he would continue to fly. But never, never would it be by a mere arbitrary decision on his part. His response to the flight situation is satisfactory only with respect to the comprehended principles of aerodynamics. He created none of these conditions and can add nothing to them. These conditions are there whether he or any other person pilots the plane.

No doubt there are multitudes of possible responses to the problem of flying. Hindu mystics affirm they can fly ‘out of the body’ to the moon and other planets at will. All they have for verifications are their own statements, for they are simply immobile to the objective viewer. One thing for sure, though, no swami has ever brought back any moon rocks from such a journey! This type of ‘flight’ is strictly in the mind. But is it flying? No more than a drug ‘trip’ is a real journey. We are not interested in imaginative flights of fancy about salvation. We need the real thing! Our response must be appropriate or it will be ineffective. We are open to those possibilities that God makes available. We are not apt to fly if we stand around flapping our arms as fast as we can. We are not going to be saved if we substitute our own responses for God’s revelation about faith in Christ Jesus.

Salvation is a real situational need. God has made it possible to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-10). Yet, similar to the pilot who desires to fly, we must make the appropriate response to the real situation. Failing to respond appropriately would be like a pilot who expects to fly without starting the plane’s engines. This would be an inappropriate response. Response which is thoroughly correlative to the object that calls it forth is appropriate. A person who goes on a salt-free died when his physician discovers hypertension is not responding arbitrarily. He does what is appropriate and what satisfies the need. God’s revelation of the faith response is likewise. Nothing is arbitrary in God’s requirement of faith from human beings who expect salvation. God revealed the conditions of the response, as the physician revealed the conditions of the diet, so that the right action might be taken.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sola Gratia - Part II

Part II

A Desperate Problem – An Extreme Solution!

Why did Paul stress grace so strongly? Paul knew the ever-present tendency of man to believe in his own ability. Sinners constantly give in to the fatal temptation of attempting to pull themselves up by their own spiritual bootstraps. Paul knew mankind would have to see its utter desolation apart from grace. “All have sinned and continue falling short of God’s glory…” (Romans 3:23). This concise statement of man’s moral bankruptcy underlined the need for a Divine solution. That solution is in grace. Paul’s grace emphasis constantly refers man back to God. It stands as a prominent warning that salvation is never to be achieved by human effort.

Even in our day people are all too ready to say: “You are a grace man, I am a deeds man. You may talk on and on about salvation by grace, but after all, it is we doers who get the job done. God helps those that help themselves.” This last bit of bragging is all too typical, but it deserves only the thoughtful reply of an unknown wit of days gone by: “God help those that help themselves.” You cannot have it this way. Grace and deeds that claim merit before God cannot co-exist (Romans 4:4): “Now as far as the one who is working, the reward is not calculated on the basis of grace, but on the basis of an obligation.” But no one can put God in his debt, no one has a claim on God. All we have a right to expect is our just condemnation, but James tells us “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Our need is mercy, not judgment!

No One Can Put God In His Debt

Mercy is available at the cross. But our problem is not only that we have so much pride we refuse to accept our lost state. It is also that we have failed to grasp how absolutely profound our need is for forgiveness by God. We simply are unaware of the deep sinfulness that has caused our rebellion against His holiness. We will develop a capacity to respond to grace only when we realize the magnitude of the sin problem of mankind. Then, and only then, will we see the amazing dimensions of God’s solution to that problem. An analysis of man’s sinfulness will help us see how magnificent God’s grace is in obtaining man’s reconciliation and forgiveness.

Romans 1:18ff carries the most penetrating analysis of sin and its effects on the life of mankind to be found. It is against this sin that the ‘wrath of God is revealed.’ Notice in this section of Romans that two things are revealed in the Gospel. God’s righteousness (vs. 17) and wrath (vs. 18) are revealed. God’s way of putting men in the right with Himself is revealed, and that is of immense importance. But before that can happen, sinners must also understand God’s wrath is revealed against their sinfulness. Unless the terrible nature of the moral disease called sin is revealed as absolutely repugnant to God, mankind is apt to go on ‘suppressing the truth’ about this dangerous condition.

God Is Not Hostile Toward Sinners, He Is Hostile Toward Sin

God’s wrath does not mean a personal hostility, for God loves us even as unforgiven sinners (John 3:16). Rather, His wrath indicates God’s intense hostility toward sin. This hostility is so serious that God cannot overlook, condone, or dismiss sin. He can forgive it, but never can He accept it. Mankind in attempting to rationalize its sinfulness succeeds only in permanently being alienated from God. It’s no good trying to rationalize our sin; we must listen to God’s revelation of what it is doing to us.

But what exactly has sin done to us? How are we affected? What parts of our being have been involved? Paul’s analysis carries three crushing accusations about our sinfulness. He introduces each of these three thoughts by the frightening statement “God gave them over…” (1:24, 26, 28). God recognized our utter alienation and reluctantly cast us upon ourselves. God abandoned us in our sinfulness, first, in verse 24f because He saw the way we “dishonored our bodies.” God had to abandon us to our physical misuse of the bodies He had given us to glorify Him. Our hearts were not right and our bodies acted out the illicit desires of the heart.

Secondly, in verse 26, Paul mentions that God saw how we had taken legitimate emotions and dishonored them. Mankind had allowed love to become only sex, and that sex degenerated into perversion. All concepts of natural anatomy were violated in this selfish search for emotional thrills. Man’s emotional life was so thoroughly distorted by sin as to place him outside God’s original intentions for this part of his being. This is a very present reality, as is the sin of 1:24.

What follows in verse 28, is what you would inevitably expect. As mankind is abandoned in his physical sin, and his emotional sin, he is also abandoned to his intellectual sin. His mind is recognized by God only as a “reject” (Greek adokimos). This is what the old confession means when it speaks of sins in “thought, word, and deed.” In other words, we have sinned as total beings.

The Total Being Of Man Is Touched By Sin

We have sinned with all of ourselves. Our minds, given us by God to think His wonderful thoughts after Him, are used now only to rationalize our sinfulness. The mind which could enrich our lives and contribute to other’s happiness serves only the selfish desires and thinks up more novel ways to sin. God must reject this prostitution of the thinking process. The mind of man made this tragic decision and now supports what is unworthy and wrong-headed. The total being of man is affected by sin. No part is un-touched.

Such is the picture the Bible reveals of man’s absolute lostness, and thus his absolute need for God’s grace. A sordid, ugly, but accurate picture. There is no use trying to pretend a major problem does not exist. There is no use suggesting halfway solutions like curing man’s monetary poverty, or providing him with a better environment, or giving him a better education. None of these solutions contain the right answer. A major problem takes a major solution.

A big problem takes a big solution. When residents of an area near Buffalo, New York called Love Canal discovered they were living on top of a witch’s brew of noxious chemicals, and when they saw these chemicals were slowly poisoning their children and effectively shortening their own lives, it was no good telling them to relax, all would be well, as some officials tried to do. That was no good; that was no answer. They could not stay on there, and “work it out.” They had to get out!

The Bible says we cannot go on living in sin and try to “work it all out” somehow. We have to get out! Sin has so damaged our relationship with God that we are in no position to make any kind of proposition to Him. If we are to get out, if anything at all is to be done, God must do it. God must give us the means to get out of this moral sinkhole or there is no getting out at all.

The Cross Is God’s Masterpiece of Salvation

God has. God has provided a solution by His grace. The cross is God’s answer to the problem of sin. God’s own solution to the sin problem is a major solution, in fact, the only solution. This is exactly what we need, but for God the extreme cost of this solution is staggering. The cost is extreme—to God. The cost is—His Son!

The One who did not know sin, He made to be sin on our behalf, that we

might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God, as you can see, takes no halfway measures. The fact that God was willing to adopt such an extreme solution to sin indicates two concepts: one, God completely understood the desperate situation of mankind; secondly, God was willing to do for us what we were in no position to do for ourselves. God’s grace is the Master solution to a problem so huge no human can fully understand, much less solve. This is why we can add absolutely nothing to the cross of Christ. The cross is God’s masterpiece of salvation. It is the only adequate answer to the sin problem and can never be replaced or supplemented.

Humans can add nothing to the cross. The cross represents the finished work of Christ for redemption, sanctification, and total salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30). To preach “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2) is not to preach the details of the crucifixion but the total adequacy of the cross for salvation. Paul’s use of the perfect participle for “crucified” is a strong indication of his realization of the cross as central in God’s gracious plan to save mankind.

The adequacy of the cross is why God’s grace is a masterpiece which will never be replaced (Hebrews 7:27). Those who understand this truth know this is why the possibility of “latter day revelations” is so incredible. What could such revelations say that could add to the cross, or top the grace of God? It would be like some art student bragging that he was going to paint the Mona Lisa over again. Or some music student claiming he was going to put out a better version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Leonardo and Beethoven are quite capable of standing on their own. So is the cross! This mountain peak of redemption towers far above any human efforts at reformation, rehabilitation, or rescue.