Month: February 2016

What will your obituary say about you?

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One morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, woke up to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred’s brother that had died and the journalist accidentally reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The “Dynamite King”, the great Industrialist, who made an immense fortune from explosives. The obituary went on to say: Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.

This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred’s life. He was not recognized as a good father, a caring friend, or even an encouragement to others. He was simply known as a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered.

As he read the obituary in dismay, Alfred decided to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. He had enough time to determine where he would give the remainder of his wealth. Shortly before his death, he signed 94% of his total assets, equivalent to 472 million dollars in today’s currency, to discoveries and inventions in the physical sciences. The most valuable prize was given to the ones who had done the most for world peace. It is called today, the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred indeed changed the way the world would see him, not as a man devoted to destruction or chaos, but a man dedicated to peace and harmony.

I want you to pause for a moment and reflect upon your own life. What will people say about you when you breathe your last breath? What words will be chosen to craft your obituary? Who will conduct your eulogy? Will you be remembered by your smile, hospitality, jokes, kindness, or optimistic outlook? Or maybe you are like Alfred at one point, known by others as unkind, cynical, rude, or angry? Whatever the case may be, I want you to know right now, today, there is hope for you. Change is always possible.

I want to introduce to you a friend who is the perfect example of what we should strive to become. He is remembered by many as the greatest peacemaker, teacher, miracle worker, and kind-hearted figure the world has ever known. His name was Jesus. History reveals that he performed miracles that could not be explained in human terms. He would heal people, turn water into wine, walk on water, and bring people back from the dead. What was incredible about Jesus was his humble attitude. Even though He had limitless power, Jesus did not try to gain political or social influence. He wanted to truly help the poor and the outcasts. Even some  of his closest friends wanted to turn Jesus into a king, but he would say to them: I did not come to be served, but to serve others, and give my life to rescue many people.

When Jesus was alive during the Roman Empire, the idea of justice was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If someone hurt you, you hurt them back. If someone betrayed you, you betrayed them back. Not with Jesus. When he comes on the scene, he shocks people with his philosophy of unconditional love. He once said: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus not only told his followers to love those who mock and ridicule  but also pray for their good and hope their hearts are transformed from hatred to love.

When the roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, he was naked and in unimaginable pain from head to toe. His accusers laughed, mocked, ridiculed, and spat at Him. The Roman soldiers were throwing dice at the foot of the cross to see who would keep his clothes. It was in this horrible humiliation and searing pain that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The other man on the cross next to him must have thought: No ordinary man can express such selfless love and concern for others. Perhaps that’s why the thief on the cross had a revelation—this is no mere human. This is the embodiment of love. This must be the divine. The dying man then cried out—Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom. Of course, Jesus forgave the man because when he was on the cross, He died for the sins of the entire world.

Every cuss word, every lie, every lustful thought, greedy heart, bitter attitude, selfish desire, and murderous action from humanity was put upon the Savior Jesus Christ in order to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to our Creator. Isaiah 53 makes it clear that Jesus bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, and by his sacrifice we are healed.

Remember when I told you earlier I had a friend who all of us should strive to become? Well, deep down inside, all of us know we can’t achieve this kind of love. He is too great, too loving, too perfect, too ideal. In fact, the irony of it is instead of rejoicing in this truth, we get upset about  it. Why? Because Jesus reminds us of who we really are. Broken, needy, selfish, sinful, lost, fractured.

When a person comes to this revelation, they react in two ways. Either they act unwise and say: I don’t want this holy, loving, perfect reminder in my life. He is like the kid at school who gets perfect grades in class, making all of us look bad. He is like the best athlete in school who makes our talents look weak. He is like the nice employee at work who never gossips like we do. He is like the patient parent who always smiles and never yells at his kid. So because of God’s radical love, people actually get offended. They don’t want to be reminded of their brokenness and inferiority.

Or when they come to this revelation, they become wise and get excited. They say this person is the smartest one in class. Let’s study with him so we can achieve better grades. They vocalize, did you hear about this new athlete? He is the best dribbler and shooter in the nation. Let’s learn from him. Maybe he can teach us some drills. The wise utter, “Did you meet the nice employee at work?” If we act kind like him, maybe our business will thrive instead of remain stagnant. The wise declare, “Did you meet that patient parent who always smiles and never yells at his kid? How in the world did he develop such patience? I am going to sit at his feet and get parenting classes from him!

Do you see the difference? When we realize our brokenness, God can help us. He can redeem us. The Scripture says that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to change their ways. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all of our sins, and make us right, pure, and good. You see, having a relationship with God is not about trying to achieve perfection by being a better person. We fall incredibly short of his perfect standard. Instead, having a relationship with God is about being honest with yourself. Realizing that you do need forgiveness. Realizing that you do need to swallow your pride because you can’t save yourself. It’s only God who has the power to save. When you get to that point, then God can change you.

As you recall, Alfred Nobel tried to satisfy his desires with money, prestige, and fame, but it left him empty-handed. He wanted a legacy for himself. Even more, he wanted to be remembered as a man of peace, not of destruction. That is good. His reputation was preserved. But don’t you want something more than a legacy? Don’t you want something more than a positive obituary? Don’t you want to have a personal relationship with Jesus, the one who conquered death? He said to all who trust in Him: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” It is my sincere hope today that you live for God, not for a legacy.

How does God’s Spirit Help us make Good Decisions?

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The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Triune God. He has many attributes that assist a Christian in being more God-like. For instance, the Holy Spirit imparts knowledge (1 Cor. 2:10-11), love (Rom. 15:30), intelligence (Acts 13:2), is a comforter (Jn 14:26), and teaches or unveils God’s Word to believers (Jn. 16:13-14; 1 Cor. 2:10; Neh. 9:20). In this essay, I will specifically explain how the Holy Spirit guides Christians.

Let me first start by mentioning passages that have been misinterpreted in recent times. For example, Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:8 indicate that the Spirit leads us to make decisions. This has led people to support extra biblical guidance in decision making. However, the focus of these passages are not on decision-making; rather, it is walking righteously in the spirit’s strength.[1] Thus, people should not be receiving any revelation outside of what God’s word teaches.

The Holy Spirit will never contradict God’s word. So if one thinks they are being led by the Spirit, they need to make sure to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). The Bible declares that many false prophets are out there to deceive us. Even our arch-enemy, Satan, masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Thus, it’s important as believers to be like the Bereans and examine the Scriptures every day to see if what others tell you align with God’s Holy Scripture (Acts. 17:11).

One might ask, then, how does one make decisions based entirely upon the Scriptures alone when not every verse has an application to it? I would argue that all verses can be applied when one is familiar with the Spirit of God. For instance, Psalm 73:24 says, “You guide me with your counsel” and John 17:17 says God will “sanctify us by His truth; His word is truth.” Therefore, when we meditate on God’s Word and allow Him to counsel our hearts, God will lead us and guide us in our relationships.

For instance, let’s say a person is trying to decide if he should get married or not. The Scripture does speak about celibacy (Gen. 2:18; Matt. 19; 1 Cor. 7). However, if the person has a desire to get married, it’s a good thing. He should then apply the principles of marriage according to 1 Corinthians 7:9. This indicates that believers should only marry believers—being unequally yoked is a problem. God calls us to marry only in the Lord. So even if you hear some audible voice telling you it may be okay. It’s not okay.[2]

Consequently, when referencing Scripture, one can determine important life decisions. If they are called to singleness, then there are passages that accept this way of life. If they are burning with lust, then that individual hasn’t been given the gift of celibacy. They should get married since “if they cannot control themselves, it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor. 7:9).”

In the end, the Holy Spirit will guide you in the Christian life. That is His role. He will never leave you or forsake you. Moreover, his advice will always match up with what God’s word says. Therefore, the best way to understand God’s will is to meditate on His Word and pray for the Holy Spirit to lead. When we trust in God’s word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we can never go wrong.

[1] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p.26.

[2] Ibid. 27

Lent Reminds us of the Real Revolutionary

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Substitutionary atonement is the sacrifice Christ made for the sins of the whole world (Jn.3:16). Those who repent and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) will receive the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness of Christ is imputed or given to believers. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).” The reason Christ could be our substitute and impute his righteousness was because he perfectly obeyed the will of God the Father. He is the perfect standard of the love and justice of God that was required for humankind to be reconciled to God.

Furthermore, substitutionary atonement not only comprises Christ imputing his righteousness to us. It’s important to understand that God was also sent to be the “propitiation” for believers (Rom. 3:25). Propitiation is a sacrifice that bears all God’s wrath on sin. Since God is just and can’t ignore the sins committed by humankind, He chose to sacrifice His only begotten Son. We must remember that Christ voluntarily chose to take the wrath of God, and that this wrath was what satisfied the demands of his own righteousness and justice. Thus, atonement is both God giving us His righteousness and appeasing the wrath of God.[1]

The implications of this doctrine for human guilt over sin is crucial. Because Jesus bore our penalty—penal substitution, He became our representative. By becoming our representative, God penalized his only Son instead of us. When we come into a relationship with Jesus, the Bible says “there is therefore now no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).” Since there is no condemnation, Christians who struggle with false guilt should remind Satan, who is the accuser of the brethren, that the sins of mankind were paid in full by Jesus of Nazareth.

Even though we deserve to die for the penalty of our sins and warrant the wrath of God for eternity, Christ, because of his love and mercy, reconciled us through His substitutionary atonement. He brought us back into fellowship with God. The Bible says that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19).” This is the greatest news for the world. Heaven is a free gift given to us by God, but we should never forget that God bought it in full for us when he suffered on the cross for our sins. Praise Jesus for His grace.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.569.

Transgender, Transethnicity, Transage?

The Indiana State Legislature recently advanced Senate Bill 344, which extended limited civil rights to lesbian and gay people in employment, housing, and public accommodations. However, the bill did exclude protections for transgender people.

Some Kokomo Common Council members of Indiana were not happy with the state’s decision. One member publicly expressed his desire to codify protections for LGBT residents in Kokomo by introducing an anti-discrimination ordinance, especially for the transgender community.

While I understand this member’s desire to extend compassion and inclusivism to those who define gender according to their self-perception, it’s still a scientific fact that males and females are biologically different, no matter what social policy decrees. People are distinguished by organs, reproductive functions, hormonal profiles, bone-density, and neuropsychiatry. No amount of cross-sex hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery can fully alter one’s personhood. Therefore, self-perception and public policy should not supersede biological fact.

Furthermore, if society defines personhood by self-perception rather than genetic composition, how might this transform the sociological landscape of our city? Not only would a male be able to change his gender to female, but a Hispanic could change their ethnic origin to Asian or American Indian. Perhaps even a 30 year old could argue he is an 80 year old trapped in a middle-aged body. Thus, if gender can be transcended by one’s own psychological assessment, why can’t ethnicity, age, or anything else?

I believe the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 344 because they understood the sociological implications this bill could have on our society. It was not because of discrimination. An LGBT activist even admitted this by saying, “Why do we have to wait until it gets to that point [of discrimination]?” This suggests the state of Indiana hasn’t yet been raised to a level sufficient that it impairs or affects the public good.

In the end, I believe as a Christian we ought to love our transgender neighbors, seek their good, welcome them into our community, and condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against them. At the same time, I oppose all efforts to alter one’s bodily identity because God uniquely created each individual from birth as either male or female, and he called it good. We should do the same.