The false gospel we don’t talk about

When we think of false gospels, a couple of common ones that raise to the top are the false gospel of works based acceptance and the prosperity gospel. In both cases, the gospel is false because our hope and trust is anchored in something other than the completed work of Christ. And let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean that perpetrators of false gospels don’t acknowledge Jesus and his sacrificial work on our behalf. In fact, you’ll find they most likely do. For the most part, they will acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh and atoned for our sins without which there is no reconciliation to the Father. They will even talk about grace and forgiveness.

However, what makes the gospel false is when acceptance and approval by God is placed in something other than Christ. This is crucial because Christianity is Christianity because of what God has done through his Son, because of God’s singular plan for redemption based on his promises and work. That God made all creation good but it plunged headlong into sin due to the first man and woman’s disobedience, he began a work starting with Genesis 3:15 to rescue lost humanity from its disconnected and downcast position. When Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, said, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind”  he means HE is the only one through whom lost humanity can have redemption. The whole Old Testament pointed to his ultimate victory over sin and death, requiring that belief rest in him as the fulfiller of all promises (2 Cor. 1:20).

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb. 9:6)

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (Heb. 9:23-24)

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Bible in a Nutshell Part 2: Foundations in Genesis

Continuing on with the series and keeping the overview in part 1 in mind, the significance of Genesis is that it lays the foundation for what God is establishing with respect to his creation. The beginning explains the how and why God started everything. To reiterate what I said in the overview, God is revealing to us who he is and his expectations for his creation. Also, it’s important to remember that when I reference creation that means all of it, humanity and the earth.

A couple of points are noteworthy here. One, Genesis was written by Moses to the children of Israel while they were wandering through the wilderness. Now think for a minute what was going on with them. They had been called as a people of God’s own possession, delivered as a people from the hand of oppression and delivered with promises of a land where they’re position would thrive as a light to all nations. But for the time being, they were slogging through a seeming nothingness and feeling forsaken. The Genesis account informs Israel of how and why they were formed in accordance with the God of creation.

And this leads to the second noteworthy point. The creation account unfortunately gets bogged down with dissections about the earth’s age. In my opinion, this is a distraction from the purpose of the text. Moses is not revealing to Israel the creation account as some sort of scientific treatise about the genesis of the earth, but to tell them THAT God created everything, out of nothing and had a plan for his creation. His plan was that man (man and woman working together) being made in the image of God was to subdue the earth, to reflect his glory. What God intended for humanity cannot be dismissed for what would happen in Genesis 3 but bear important implications for how his people would work together for the sake of his kingdom.

Another significant aspect of Genesis 1-2 is that it demonstrates that we cannot divorce the spiritual aspect of reconciliation to the Father with what he desires for creation. He said ‘it is good’ which means that the physicality of creation is important. Continue reading

The Bible in a Nutshell Part 1: Overview

Before we can talk about the parts of the Bible, it helps to know what the Bible is. For much of my Christian life I’ve heard references such as the God’s instruction manual for Christian living. While I think there is some truth to that description, it does not adequately describe what the richness of these 66 books. Moreover, if we reduce the Bible down to a user manual or book of propositions, our tendency will be to miss the larger story of redemption.

While the Bible is comprised of many books that were written by 40 different authors over the span of 1,500 years, the Bible is one book. It is God revealing himself to us. But we have to see how he is doing this in consideration of his intersection with time and history. As I mentioned in my last post, we want to look at the Bible from a 20,000 foot angle, so to speak. It’s easy to get lost in the trees of particular passages but lose sight of the forest. But with this series I’m hoping to give a snapshot of each section to show the beauty of the forest by providing points to consider concerning how the pieces of these 66 books fit together. There are three aspects to the Bible I think are important to bear in mind.

1. The Bible is a divine book

If you have a red letter Bible, you might be tempted to think of the words of Jesus as more important or spiritual the rest of the Bible. But this would be a mistake. All Scripture is breathed out by God,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

God moved through men as the Holy Spirit influenced their pen so that they would write in their own words the thoughts, will and intention of God. As I’ll note later, men wrote in their own styles but were guided by the Holy Spirit in accordance of what was happening. And just a side note: this means the Bible itself is spiritual, not just words on a piece of paper we make spiritual. Continue reading

New series in 2018: the Bible in a Nutshell

I want to announce a series that I’ll be starting soon called The Bible in a Nutshell. It’s not a Bible study in the sense that I’ll be going through a book or portion of a book. Rather, it’s taking what I call the 20,000 foot view and considering how the Bible tells one cohesive story from Genesis to Revelation. For now, I plan on 8 segments outlined at the end,  in which I hope to provide some insight into how each section of the Bible fits into the overarching narrative of Scripture.  I don’t subscribe to be any kind of authority on Bible reading but I do want to pass on some lessons I’ve learned in my many years of studying Scripture and pitfalls to avoid.

If you’re like me, you started off your Christian journey with a Bible in hand and eager to dive in. After all, you heard that it is God’s word. That was me! I had a desire to read the Bible for I  instinctively knew it was God’s word. I needed to learn about this Christian faith and what God has said about who he is and what his expectations are. It didn’t take long for that enthusiasm to be met with some confusion and even frustration. It’s not just one book, my many books! How does this all make sense together?

Naturally, the way we make sense of it in the beginning is to listen to the experienced voices, or at least those who claim to be. It doesn’t take much for whatever these leaders to espouse for us to then impose that on the text to derive our meaning.

That’s great if these experienced voices have taken great care to look at the Bible holistically. Meaning, they’ve studied how all the pieces fit together and handle the Bible reverently, not imposing their own philosophies on the text. Continue reading

Jesus, Jerusalem and the big game changer

It’s been interesting watching the reactions to President Trump’s announcement concerning acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Many are seeing this as a fulfillment of prophecy, most notably Zech. 12:1-3. Of course, on face value it seems to make sense if in fact Scripture indicates that Israel with Jerusalem at the seat of its theocratic power, as existed in the Old Testament, that such a move would be celebrated on theological grounds (there are political reasons as well but we won’t go into that).

All this points to a telling sign to me: that so many Christians believe that God’s fulfillment of covenantal promises still involve the geographic, political state of Israel as if those promises still involved that particular piece of land.

It would be a long while in my Christian walk before I realized that references to Israel in Scripture, particularly the New Testament did not mean the political state of Israel. Romans 9-11 is particularly instructive in this regard. Paul lays out the case that though he longs for his kinsmen according to the flesh (ethnic Israel) because of all that had been given to them (9:4-5), they don’t belong to the true Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (vs. 6). Israel refers to Abraham’s children according to the Spirit (vs. 8), those who have believed in God’s promises through Christ (cf. Gal: 3:7-18). The remnant of Israel is actually the true believers, those united to Christ, including the grafting in of the Gentiles as those who inherit the same promises (11:13-24). It’s important to note here with the rejection of Israel  that the distinction of ethnic Israel relates to the fact that they were first given the revelation of this glorious truth. God is not giving up on them but it doesn’t mean they are somehow a separate people of God who will be dealt with according to a specific piece of land.

But doesn’t Paul seem to be referencing such when he says, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles and come in. In this way all Israel will be saved” (11:25-26) then sites Is. 59:20 as an indication for a future for Israel. Is Paul referring to a deferred plan for the place called Israel? Not hardly. Another way of seeing this is that the time of the true Israel (Jews and Gentiles together) don’t get fulfilled until all the elect are saved, including Jews. (PS: I do recognize that scholars have debated the complexities of Rom. 9-11 and come to different conclusions.) Continue reading