Some of you who have been following this blog for a while may think we’re being redundant with this week’s word, since we covered the word Communion back in April. But, is communion the same thing as the Lord’s Supper? The church often uses those words interchangeably. For this post on the Lord’s Supper, I’d like to focus on the act that happened while Jesus was still on the earth, and how that relates to our other recent blog posts on logos and love.
What we call the Lord’s Supper (or sometimes the Last Supper) is the meal Jesus had with His disciples to celebrate the Passover feast, right before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. The account of this can be found in all of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, though John’s account is different than the others. (I’ll let you do some reading if you want to find out how.)
So why is the Lord’s Supper important to us? In it, Jesus shared bread and wine with His disciples. Those elements symbolize Jesus’ body and blood, that His body would be broken for them (and us) and that His blood would be poured out in death for them (and us). Our Lord Jesus celebrated this meal with His disciples so they (and we) would have a symbolic way to remember His sacrifice for us.
Why did Jesus do this? He had to suffer and die for us because He alone is the logos (the Word) and a manifestation of true love. It was out of love for each one of us that Jesus performed the act of sharing the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, as a foretelling at the time of what His physical body would have to go through. Because Jesus is the true Word and Creator God, He was able to be that sacrifice for each one of us.
The Lord’s Supper isn’t just something that Christians do at church every now and then. It is an act of receiving God’s love for us and revering the sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us so long ago, and the reason Jesus came to us in human form as we just celebrated in the Christmas season.
Most of you have probably either been in a situation or at least seen one on TV or in the movies where two people were talking about love and the moment of truth arrived where they find out who is willing to take that huge leap and utter those three magical words, “I love you”. I just watched a movie the other day where the woman was desperately trying to get her man to say it the whole movie, yet it was too late when he was finally able to bring himself to do it because she had already moved on with her life. The man, like many, was scared of what kind of lasting commitment those words would mean if he actually had to “walk the walk” instead of just talking about it.
I’ve been in the situation described above personally and if you have ever had a very serious relationship or marriage, you have too. We all know that there are certain benchmarks of every relationship where it passes from a casual stage to a much more serious one. Those benchmarks may not be the same for everyone, but I’d be willing to bet that being able to express both privately and publicly that you LOVE each other is the most common one. The reason why such a proclamation is taken so seriously has very little to do with the actual words, for it’s pretty easy to talk about love. The real challenge is living it out, especially when you know you have already tried as hard as you possibly can many times and have still failed miserably. All of a sudden, even uttering the words is intimidating because of how it has humbled you in the past.
When you really think about it, the concept of love absolutely SHOULD be intimidating. I mean, what else is there in the Bible that is directly synonymous with God? 1 John 4:16 says very clearly that “God is love”. It’s the only noun that God IS. We have many other adjectives to describe God’s character and attributes in Scripture, but love is something that pretty much sums up everything else. Since man can only partially understand God, His greatness as our Creator is intimidating to any that truly worship Him and seek to obey His commands. And since God is love, that makes love a very intimidating idea.
In Monday’s blog, Katie shared three of the various words for “love” from the Greek language and pointed out that the love attributed to God consistently in the New Testament is “agape”, a kind of self-sacrificing love. I think it’d be fair to say that it’s pretty easy and not so intimidating to use “love” to describe our feelings about things that aren’t going to require us to sacrifice much of ourselves. For example, I can say that I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, love my job, love ice cream, and love the season of autumn. All of these statements are true and don’t even require a passing thought in saying them because not much is really required of me in living them out. But when we talk about loving God or someone created in His image (by the way, that’s everybody), the uncertainty of what that will require in terms of sacrifice can be terrifying.
I believe that may have been what was going through Peter’s mind when Jesus, who had recently been resurrected, was speaking to him directly after appearing to all the disciples. The dialogue is recorded in John 21:15-22 and I encourage you to read it on your own. Peter was undoubtedly the most ashamed disciple when Jesus was crucified because he had denied knowing his Lord 3 times, and the most excited disciple upon his resurrection because it meant another chance at living out his bold claims of love for Jesus. However, his excitement didn’t come without a little trepidation.
Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him and Peter’s affirmative responses and subsequent comments give us insight into his cautiousness at using such a big word to describe his feelings. In our translation, it appears as simple repetition because we have only the one word for the different types of “love”. But in the Greek, Jesus asks Peter the first two times if Peter loves (agape) him, and Peter responds both times that he does indeed love (philia) him (check out Katie’s blog from Monday if you don’t know the difference in the words for “love”). Do you understand what was happening? Jesus wanted to know if Peter loved him enough to sacrifice all for him to the very end. After all, Peter had made that very claim in the past (Matthew 26:33) before denying his Lord. Peter, now with much more hesitancy after his previous failures, simply responds that he loves Jesus as a friend and brother. When Jesus asks Peter a third time, he changes the word to “philia” and Peter repeats what he had already said twice.
The conversation that followed showed why Peter was not quite to the point of boldly proclaiming “agape” love. Jesus spoke about how Peter would be persecuted and martyred for his sake, and Peter’s reaction was to compare his future to that of John, another disciple. Peter was beginning to understand the magnitude of “agape” love, regarding both what Jesus was willing to do for him and what he was not yet sure he would be able to do for Jesus. The amazing thing about Christ is that he was God, meaning he already knew what was in Peter’s heart, yet he proceeded to ask him anyway. Furthermore, he did not blast Peter for his struggles but instead met Peter at the place where he was and lovingly challenged him.
Friends, Jesus is not requiring you to be perfect at “agape” love. In fact, the only perfect, self-sacrificing love there is comes from Christ. If you are constantly working hard to try to attain some standard of love apart from Christ, you will never be satisfied and will always find yourself failing. This kind of love is so BIG that it can’t be accomplished without the Holy Spirit, the Counselor that was sent by God after Christ (John 14 & 16), living and working in our hearts.
Are you at the point where Peter was at in your life right now? Are you terrified at the thought of having to love God or someone else and what kind of sacrifice it may require of you? If so, I would encourage you that your feelings are normal and legitimate considering what “agape” love really means. It’s much easier said than done. But I would also encourage you that Jesus is not evaluating you on how successfully or poorly you are able to DO “agape” love. If Peter’s story was any example for us, we see that Jesus simply asks for a willing heart. He didn’t stand there and make Peter apologize or hold his failures over his head, no matter how much the betrayal hurt Jesus. He knew Peter’s heart, and simply challenged him to self-examine his own commitment. Jesus knew that if Peter was willing to fully surrender his heart to him, everything else would follow. So, that’s my hope for me and for each of you. Rather than attempting to figure out how to DO “agape”, simply humble yourself before Christ, tell him your heart belongs to him, and ask him to lead you and show you what that love really means.
“If we get the love part wrong, what’s the point?”
The above is a favorite saying of Jason DeZurik, and it is really true. We need to love God and love others, and that’s what really matters in life.
But what is love, and why should we love others? As always, let’s turn to the Scriptures for an answer. I’d encourage you to read all of 1 John 4:7-21 for some more context, but I’ll pull out a couple highlights for you.
Why should we love? We love because it is from God, and because He loves us. 1 John 4:7a: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:10-11: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
What does love look like? Love has no fear, and it loves all people the same. 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:20-21: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
This would not be a complete writing, in my opinion, without sharing with you the three types of love there are in the Greek language. Biblical Greek has three words for love: eros, philia, and agape. Eros love is the romantic type of love, such as between a husband and wife. Philia love is brotherly love, or the loyal love between close friends. Agape love is a self-sacrificing, unconditional love. Which word for love do you think is used in the above passage of 1 John 4? It’s consistently the agape type of love.
God’s love is amazing because we have never experienced and will never experience anything like it on this earth. Think back (or maybe ahead) to your first love; it was probably more of a “puppy love” crush. Remember how giddy you were? Multiply that times one billion and that’s just a teeny tiny part of the love God has for you!
Especially in this Christmas season, we remember how God loved us so much that Jesus was willing to give up His place in heaven to come down to this dirty, smelly, sinful planet and adopt a body just like ours. Not only that, but Jesus knew that later in His life that same body would be ripped and torn and killed on a brutal torture device -- all because of his agape love for each one of us!
Now that is true love; and if we miss that love part, what’s the point?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” –Matthew 2:1,2
What was the star that the Magi were following after the birth of Jesus? It is a minute detail within this very popular and important narrative that the author neglects to mention. I know that it is not the most important or significant detail in the entire Bible, nor is it a detail that should steal the attention away from the grander narrative of Christ’s birth and life. Nonetheless, it has fascinated me every time I come across a possible explanation for the identity of the star of Bethlehem. Proving its former existence and identity would make a strong case for the authenticity of the Christmas story. If it were proven to be nothing more than a myth, it would cause damage to the authenticity of the entire Gospel message.
The first possibility, and perhaps the most obvious in relation to the story, is that it may have been supernatural. There is evidence within the text that this was the case. For instance, the star appeared at a particular time and prevailed for the majority of their journey. After they visited Herod, it appeared that the star went ahead of them until it rested over the home of Jesus (Mt 2:9). How would it have rested over the child’s home had it not been supernatural?
Although this seems like an adequate explanation, I have always found other explanations quite intriguing. After all, Genesis tells us, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…and let them serve as signs to mark season and days and years” (1:14). Could this have been one of the days that the stars were meant to indicate?
In 1603, Astronomer Royal Johannes Kepler observed a conjunction of stars. Saturn and Jupiter were en route to align with the constellation Pisces. He remembered a prediction by an ancient rabbi that the Messiah would appear after Saturn and Jupiter met in conjunction with Pisces. This event, according to his observations, would have taken place around 6 or 7 B. C. It is assumed that Jesus would have been born after these dates, but many scholars have speculated, and rightly so, that our current calendar does not perfectly coincide with the birth of Christ. The current calendar is probably off by a few years. There was doubt concerning Kepler’s observations, but in 1925 A.D. German scholar P. Schnabel analyzed ancient documents from Babylon that confirmed that this conjunction of stars did indeed occur in 7 B. C. (Werner Keller, The Bible as History, (New York: Bantam books, 1980) 361-362.
Another possibility is that the star was a supernova. Certain early church historians, Ignatius, Eusebius, etc., noted that ancient records testified to the birth of a “new star” that had appeared in the sky. Such an occurrence would indicate the event of either a nova (the birth of a new star) or a supernova (a star exploding). Either of these events would have emitted a great amount of light and could have been acknowledged as being a new star by the ancient observers. The new star was supposedly observed from around the world near the supposed time of Jesus’ birth. Morris claims that a comet, conjunction, or a supernatural guiding light would not have been confused as being a “star” by the Magi who were brilliant scholars in regards to astronomy. Note, however that a supernova would have been the destruction of an existing star opposed to the creation of a new one. (Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, (Green Forrest, Arizona: Master Books, 2008) 166-167.
This topic is should not be taken dogmatically because the most important aspect of this star was that it existed. Thus far the most likely explanation given only the testimony of Scripture would be that the star was supernatural. Nonetheless, it is still likely that the star may have been entirely natural and ordained by God through his created order to announce the season of his Son. This possibility is quite exciting because evidence of the star’s existence would have been left behind in either ancient records or in the sky itself. Most importantly, the uniqueness of the star of Bethlehem drew strangers from a foreign land to the town of Bethlehem to worship a baby who they believed was royal, possibly divine. It was a baby who, like the star, was totally unique. Whatever the star was, it must have been magnificent.
One of the things that we know about Jesus from John 1, which Katie referenced in Monday's blog, is that he was "the true light that gives light to every man" (1:9). As Katie already pointed out, Jesus was referred to in this passage as the Logos, or the "Word". The concept of God being "light" is throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. In Genesis 1:3, God spoke light into existence. He did this 3 days before He created the sun, moon, and stars, and many thousands of years before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. So the only answer to the question of where did the light come from is God Himself. Later, in Exodus, God appears to Moses as a burning bush emitting light and heat, but not burning up (Exodus 3:2). There are many more examples, culminating with a description of heaven in Revelation 21 that includes the fact that it does not need the sun or the moon for light because it is illuminated by the "glory of God" (v. 23). All of these verses and many more point to God as our light, but it wasn't until Jesus was born that the "true light" became flesh. Up until that point, all flesh had become wicked and been overcome by darkness. In Jesus, however, came the light which darkness has not overcome (John 1:5).
You may be wondering why I am choosing to write about the relationship between darkness and the Logos. This article will be posted on Thursday, December 20, exactly one day before the shortest day of the year, as far as light is concerned. Another way of describing December 21 would be "the darkest day of the year". In addition, most of us know by now that December 21 of this particular year has been predicted by Mayan calendars to be the end of the world, even though Scripture is clear that "no one knows about that day or hour" (Matthew 24:36). Even the idea that the world may end has become a form of darkness for many, because it incites fear for those who worry about the end times. So, with the darkest day of the year approaching, maybe we should think about what kind of hope and assurance the arrival of the Logos gives us.
It is not actually possible to measure darkness, since it is not a thing unto itself. You may have heard before that "darkness" is really only a term to describe the absence of light, and it physically makes sense when you think about it. You can turn all the lights off and close the blinds to make a room completely dark, but if even one tiny beam of light enters that room, it literally overcomes the darkness and allows for at least a little bit of sight. On the contrary, you cannot insert darkness into a very well-illuminated area and think it's going to make a difference. Therefore, it is safe to say that true physical light always overcomes true physical darkness.
But what about darkness in the spiritual sense? After all, Jesus was not needed to be a physical light in the world, for the sun, moon, and stars had already existed for many years before he came in the flesh. What was needed was a spiritual light to illuminate the darkness caused by the hearts of men. The nation of God's people, Israel, had been overcome by their own "dark" choices and the consequences God allowed them to face. They spent generations mired in slavery, captivity, and their own waywardness. The very people who were called to shine God's light to all had become trapped by darkness. We can say the same for us today. Just last week, 20 innocent children and several more adults were gunned down at school in Connecticut because of the overwhelming darkness in one man's life. Many have blamed the government because "God has been forbidden in schools", but what about the sex crimes that have taken place in the Roman Catholic Church and most recently in a mega-church in Oklahoma? Jesus told Nicodemus that "light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Guess what, friends? This has been true within the Church as much as outside of it.
The Lord challenged the Israelites in the Old Testament through the words of the prophet Isaiah. In Chapter 58, the Lord tells Isaiah to declare to His people how they have missed the point. He tells Isaiah that the people are practicing the ritual of fasting, expecting that doing so will earn them favor with God and access to His decisions. But there is a problem. While they are fasting every day, they are willfully continuing in their sinfulness. They think of themselves first and others second. They quarrel with one another. They exploit their workers. God is not pleased and even challenges them to use common sense and ask themselves why they would assume that this would be acceptable to God. Finally, the Lord calls them to action through Isaiah. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday" (Isaiah 58:9b-10).
The challenge to the Israelites back then is the same challenge for us today. How do we, as the Church, live in such a way that we acknowledge that the Logos has come and brought light into our darkness? The answer is also the same. We must do away with divisions within the body, cease to oppress others in any way, and look to the needs of others above our own. The revelation of the Logos to us allows us to live in this way. And if we do, even the darkest day of the year will feel like joyous light, and the end of the world, no matter when it is, will be joyfully anticipated rather than feared. This is the hope and the light of Jesus, the Logos who overcame the darkness!
If you think this blog is going to be discussing logos as in the picture that represents something, you’re in for something different than expected. This week’s word is logos, but it’s a Biblical Greek word pronounced like LAH-gahs.
Logos is mentioned many times throughout the Greek New Testament, but the most prominent description is in John 1:1-18, known as the Prologue. If you go read that, you’ll see “Word” there in the English every time logos is used in the Greek. The best translation we have for logos is that it means “word.” But why is that important? And who or what is the logos mentioned in John 1?
John introduces Jesus to his readers as the logos, the word. By doing this, John is pointing them back to the Old Testament, which was they considered the Scriptures or the Word of God. Jesus came to earth to fulfill the prophecies and every aspect of the Old Testament, therefore He is portrayed as the Word itself.
In Genesis 1, God created the world through His spoken words. Jesus is the agent of creation, because all was created through Him (John 1:3). Therefore, the Word (logos) is Jesus and Jesus is the Word. Jesus was with God since before time.
In the world of Greek philosophy that was prevalent in Jesus’ time, the word logos referred to a bridge between an all-knowing God and the material universe that we live in. So for John to use logos as a name of Jesus, it shows that He is our connection to God.
So, by referring to Jesus as logos, John is engaging both the Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) audiences of his day. With that one word, he summed up Jesus and how He relates to their cultures, and His significance in the plan of the universe.
Think about how you look at Jesus. Do you consider Him to be your logos - the creator of the world, the only person who fulfilled the entire Old Testament, and the connection between us and God?
Have you ever heard the statement, "Common sense just isn't common enough anymore"? I have personally used this statement and heard it used many times. Typically, it is said when people are drawing attention to what they perceive as stupidity on the part of the majority of people. But what does the phrase "common sense" even mean? The words themselves imply that it is something universal, or at least exceedingly popular. This leads to a universal pursuit of something that is not universal! What I mean by this is that we are all driven by logic, but it's not the same kind of logic. When I face a difficult decision in my life, I could very easily be seeking the most "logical" conclusion and still not have it make sense to anyone but myself. Logic is our engineer, in the sense that it guides the entire train of our lives. But logic is not a universal concept. I believe that simply because of all the factors in our lives by which we develop OUR logic. If you want the things you do to make sense to everyone else, you're searching for something you will never find. Scripture will show us that logic can be both common and personal.
As Katie already described in Monday's blog, the Bible is a very logical and ordered book. I want to show you the same thing on a small scale. In Paul's letter to the Romans, it appears that he organized it with a purpose. The first 11 chapters have to do with the wickedness of all mankind and the grace that has been shown to us by God through Jesus Christ. They reveal to us how far we are from being able to live in complete righteousness and earn salvation for ourselves, but also teach us about God's love for us even when we were still caught up in sin and how that love has given us an opportunity to be in relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus. Then, starting in Chapter 12, Paul begins to explain the "so what" of everything he has explained to that point. The remaining chapters deal very specifically with how we are to treat others, including persecutors, governing authorities, weaker and stronger brothers, and other believers in general, because of the grace that we have received. So the entire Book of Romans really hinges on the beginning verses in Chapter 12, which we will look at in a minute. The "logic" in the composition and order of Romans is something that is very common. It would be hard for anyone to deny the logical progression of Paul's writing in this letter.
As I wrote earlier, logic is not only common, but also personal. Take a look at Romans 12:1. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship" (NIV). Now, I quoted the NIV there because that is what we most often use. But in the original Greek writing of the New Testament, we see something a little different than what we see in the English. This is due mostly to the fact that most Greek words are broader than their English counterparts. In this verse, the word for "spiritual" is actually the Greek logikos, which can be translated as "rational, reasonable, logical, or spiritual". In other words, the response to the grace of God that Paul is talking about here is the only response that makes any sense! It's not something we do to be more spiritual, but rather to be more logical. I mean, you can see that our word "logic" is directly derived from this Greek word. Paul spends all this time in his letter making sure his audience understands the grace of God not just emotionally but logically as well, and then nails them with what it should mean for their lives. I see Paul writing these words with sort of a "no duh" look on his face. Many Christians back then were likely wondering how they could possibly repay God for what he had done, and their view of the law and what was required of them would have centered on sacrifices. But Paul is trying to get them to see that it's not about giving up dead animals. The only sensible thing to do in response to what God has done is surrender every area of our lives to him. But here's the question: Does that look the same for everyone?
And the answer to that question is "no". That's when logic is personal. Listen to the same verse in a different translation. "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him" (Romans 12:1 [The Message]). You see, we all have different ordinary lives depending on our jobs, schedules, families, and passions. Because of this, God isn't looking for some kind of common, logical gift back to him. What he's looking for in all of us is a life fully-surrendered to him. That means that the driving force behind everything we do, including our routine daily activities, is the logical mindset that we are living for him because of what he has already done for us! It is up to individual persons to decide the specific applications of that mindset in their lives.
Clearly, we don't all use the same logic. Paul makes a distinction between the logic of the world and that of believers in the very next verse. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will" (Romans 12:2 [NIV]). Friends, the world has logic and "common sense" that drives them. As believers, we use a different kind of logic that has been transformed by Christ, and honestly, we might as well expect the world to look at us like we're crazy and illogical. The only thing we need to focus on as individuals is whether or not we are living in obedience to God. I challenge you to survey your life and ask God to reveal to you the areas where you have illogically put yourself on the throne and not surrendered to him. Let your renewed logic be your engineer!
When looking at this blog topic, my first thought was, “Why am I writing about logic? What does that have to do with the Bible?” But then I started thinking about it a bit more logically (ha) and it made sense. Logic is a way in which we reason and understand things. Logic itself is not truth, but we learn truths through the use of logic.
The Bible is a very logical book, in the sense that it is very orderly. The overall book is divided into two testaments, Old and New. Each testament is divided up into smaller books. Each book is divided into chapters, and each chapter into verses. Each verse and chapter is made up of words and sentences that flow together in logical fashion. We are able to read it because of the logic of reading a word in a language. If the Bible weren’t in an orderly fashion, it would be much more difficult for us to study.
Logic is something that happens in our mind. We use our reason, given to us by God, to make sense of things. Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Notice that we are to love God with all of our mind - that’s where logic is. Logically, we have to know God and know about God before we can love Him. We can never fully comprehend God, since He is outside of our human thinking, but He does want us to make our best attempt to know Him with our minds, which is why He gave us the Bible that we can read and study.
God’s Word itself is also logical in many ways. It is clearly stated many times that if you obey God you will be blessed, and if you disobey God you will be cursed. That’s a pretty logical cause-and-effect situation. But, the problem with that logic is that we all disobey God, so left on our own we’d all be cursed. God’s law is very logical, and He spells out the punishment we’ll receive if we break it.
But fortunately, there is an illogical part of the Bible! That is God’s grace. We break the law so we deserve the logical punishment prescribed for that - death. It is highly illogical, yet so very wonderful, that we can receive God’s grace in spite of what we deserve. It doesn’t make sense to our human logic, but it does make sense in the context of our loving God.
Well, since Katie was in such a song-quoting mood in the opening of her blog on Monday, I thought I'd get in on that action. One of my favorite rock songs from a little more recent of a time than the one Katie quoted was "Renegade" by Styx. The song opens with the following words: "Oh mama, I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law". It goes on from there to talk about how this "renegade" has broken the law and has been running from it for a long time. His choices have put fear in his mind because he knows that he can only run away from them for so long before he will finally have to pay the penalty for breaking the laws to the very ones who made them. Webster defines a renegade as "anyone who chooses to live outside laws or conventions". Most of us would say that we are not renegades because we don't intentionally make that choice and because we generally don't even view ourselves as lawbreakers. But I assure you, friends, that we all fit into this category when it comes to both worldly laws and God's Law.
The biggest reason that we generally don't see ourselves as renegades is because we compare ourselves to those who either have lengthy criminal records or have committed more severe crimes than we have. But that is not what defines a lawbreaker. Just by the sheer meaning of the word itself, anyone who breaks even one law is then a "lawbreaker". Guess what I did today on the way to Toledo, OH for required work training with several other passengers in the vehicle I was driving? That's right, I decided to exceed the speed limit! Now, all the excuses and justifications are valid. I was going close enough to the speed limit that the cops likely wouldn't care. If I went slower while everyone else was going faster, it could actually be more of a factor in causing an accident. And finally, I was able to do it safely and get us to our destination a few minutes ahead of schedule. Yet, with all those things being said, I still broke the law and willingly chose to do so! The fact that I've never been sent to jail or done anything "major" does not change the reality that I am a lawbreaker. I would suspect most of you are as well.
The same is true when it comes to God's Law. Jesus' brother, James, wrote that "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (2:10). God is completely holy and perfect. Therefore, His standard of righteousness is to NEVER stumble. Do you understand what that means? If you do, then you understand that it is hardly possible. But, as Katie shared on Monday, that's the main purpose of the Law - to show us just how far we are from achieving the standard of righteousness on our own (Romans 3:20). Fortunately, we don't have to live with the "Long Arm of the Law" chasing after us to make us pay. We need only to accept that God made it possible for us to be seen as righteous in His sight through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Grace sets us free when our lawbreaking would have doomed us.
The problem facing many of the early Christians in the first century was their temptation to still try to justify themselves by their ability to follow the Law even after they had already trusted Christ as their Savior. This temptation was perpetuated by false teachers who came to be known as "Judaizers". These were Jews who taught that Gentiles and Jews alike needed to follow the Jewish Law in order to be justified and establish a relationship with Christ. The Apostle Paul dealt with these teachers and their lies in his letter to the Galatians. He even goes so far as to say they have alienated themselves from Christ by trying to justify themselves rather than accepting the free justification through his blood (Galatians 5:4). Wow! Do you realize that is the danger we put ourselves in anytime we point out where someone else is lacking in righteousness according to the Law (or our version of it)? More importantly, do you realize this is the danger we put ourselves in anytime we compare ourselves to others based on our "righteousness"?
Paul deals pretty harshly with these people throughout Galatians 5 because he knows how critical it is to understand who and what has saved us. "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law" (5:2-3). Paul was dealing specifically with circumcision here because that was the sign of the covenant between God and the Jews, from all the way back in Genesis. But he's not talking about anyone who is circumcised, as it is still a tradition in many cultures including ours. He's specifically talking to adult Gentile males who had not been circumcised at birth, due to it not being their custom, and who were being told they needed to have the procedure done to be right with God. Not only does Paul deal sternly with those who were possibly going to buy into that garbage, but he's even more stern with the ones who were causing them to abandon Christ's justification in favor of "obeying the law". In talking about the Judaizers who were preaching the falsehood, Paul says, "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves"! (5:12)
Friends, Paul's point is clear. If we choose to live as though Christ's sacrifice were not sufficient to justify us, then we are also choosing to be held accountable as lawbreakers. And if we are held accountable as lawbreakers, we have no chance for salvation. Paul talks about emasculation because of its natural connection to the process of circumcision (hopefully I don't need to go into details). But the same is true in any way that we try to justify ourselves by deeds alone. If you decide that is how you are going to be justified rather than by Christ's blood, then what is stopping you from going ever further? What is stopping you from leaving everything and going out to live in the wilderness as an ascetic waiting for God to supply all your needs as you faithfully "suffer for Him"? I hope and pray that none of you have fallen or are in danger of falling into that trap. I, for one, am very thankful that I don't need to justify myself. I can freely try to live righteously in obedience and service to Christ without fear of failure, knowing that his blood has already covered my failures so that I can just get back up and keep pressing forward. That reality gives me great peace and I know it will do the same for you as you trust that Jesus has truly paid it all!
Not too long ago, someone attempted to rebut my assertion of creationism by saying that evolution occurs through “random mutation.” When they mentioned the word “random,” a thought came to my mind: “Is anything truly random?” The comprehensive theory of evolution greatly relies on the possibility that something was truly random. Only under such circumstances could God be discredited for creation. There are several scientific anomalies I would like to discuss in regards to randomness: The Big Bang (or the universe’s origins), abiogenesis (the materialistic origin of life), and random mutation (a supposed mechanism for evolution).
The premise for the Big Bang is that all of the universe’s building blocks were compacted into a point in the midst of nothingness. For whatever reason, this point expanded (the theory has been revised, it used to be called an explosion) and eventually evolved into everything in the universe (Douglas C. Giancoli. 2005. Physics. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. 933). However, it is now theorized that the expansion of space was not random but part of an ongoing cycle dictated by rules and laws. These rules and laws have yet to be determined, but it is no longer supposed that the expansion of space was “random.”
Abiogenesis supposes that life came from non-life. This occurred according to chance. The environment gathered the correct composition of molecules, at the correct time, and synthesized the building blocks of life. Could this have happened by chance or would this need to be a part of another naturally occurring, ongoing cycle that is inevitable?
Random mutation, though not part of Darwin’s original Theory of Evolution, supposedly facilitates the process of evolution within living creatures. But is a random mutation truly random? Let’s consider, for a moment, the word “random.” When we hear the word “random,” we suppose it means “blind chance” or “without a guiding force.” If we define the word “random” in such a way, we are ignoring the truth. The truth is that the definition of “random” is that something is unpredictable. For instance, the exact location of an electron within an electron cloud of an atom is considered random because scientists have so far been unable to predict the location of individual electrons in motion. But is that because there is no reason for how electrons move or is it because we have not yet devised a mathematical formula that is able to accurately predict the location of an electron within a cloud?
Let’s sum this all up. Could the Big Bang have been a result of blind chance? No. If there was a Big Bang, it had to have operated according to preprogrammed laws and rules that complied with nature. Could abiogenesis have occurred according to blind chance? No. Because if natural laws for the formation of the universe existed, certainly preprogrammed natural laws would have to exist for life to come about. Otherwise, life would not just be pointless…it would be impossible! So if these two could not have been “blind chance”, could mutation? Even less so! A mutation is in no way random but is caused by dysfunction that occurs in the transmission, formation, and replication of genes. There are reasons that mutations happen, otherwise the scientific community is wasting its time in trying to learn how to cure genetically linked diseases! Think about it. (Hawking, Stephen “Life in the Universe.” 1996, (http://hawking.org. http://hawking.org.uk/index.php?option =com_content&view=article&id=65 [accessed July 16, 2011]).
So if these things are not random, what can we say? Nothing happens without a reason or purpose. I do not believe in the Big Bang, but if it happened its purpose was clearly to create a universe. I don’t believe in abiogenesis, but if abiogenesis did happen its purpose was to create life. I do not believe that random mutation is responsible for the creation of every species of animal, but if it is, its purpose was to create a hierarchy of life, laced with incredible diversity! Are you a result of random chance? Absolutely not! Order is the enemy of the atheist, despite their attempts to reconcile a world full of order to their disbelief in God.
The Bible tells us that even at the casting of lots (we would call it the rolling of dice) God determines the outcome (Proverbs 16:33). What does this tell us? It tells us that God created everything with such order that he has already known the number of days you will live on earth, the number of hairs on your head, the health and well-being of the tiniest life forms, and even the direction that the wind will be blowing at any particular place at any particular time. God is the one who ordains order. This can cause a theological divide, but the Bible clearly teaches God’s intimate working within his creation as he guides it to his desired end.
Randomness is a myth. Secularists try to reconcile a world of order with the possibility of disorderly origins. Unfortunately for their ideology, laws and guiding principles must first exist in order for chaos to be settled into an orderly state. Once order is established can we honestly say that anything happens based off of random chance?
There’s a song from back in the 1960s with a chorus that says, “I fought the law and the law won... I fought the law and the law won!” The song talks about a few things that the singer did wrong and got caught for - hence, he fought the law and the law won.
That’s definitely how it works for all of us as humans. I’m not just talking about human authorities such as police officers and other law enforcement, but how things work when you’re a part of the Kingdom of God as a Christian. We are always up against the law of God - the things He has told us to do and not to do. Just take a look through the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and I’m sure you’ll find something you’re guilty of. And if you don’t, read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and you’ll see how He elaborates on the commandments to include thoughts and motivations, not just physical actions.
So what is God’s law? It encompasses everything that God has told us in the Bible that we should do or not do. Many of the laws in the Old Testament have been fulfilled through Jesus’ sacrifice, so we don’t need to practice them anymore. Included in this category is all of the ritual sacrifices that the people of Israel were required to perform. Jesus’ death on the cross is the only sacrifice that we need for our salvation now. There are over 600 laws in the Old Testament, but every one of them can be summed up with Jesus’ interaction with some Pharisees in Matthew 22:35-40:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If you don’t love God with *all* your heart, soul, and mind, then you’re breaking God’s law. If we fight the law, the law always wins. But, law’s partner in crime so to speak is grace. The law shows us what we’ve done wrong and how we don’t deserve God’s love, but grace steps in and gives us forgiveness and life with God forever. Without having the law and realizing that we don’t deserve God’s favor, then grace would be meaningless. But because we have the law, God’s grace is that much more important and amazing.