Archive for the ‘The Message of the Cross’ Category

The Message of the Cross

April 14, 2017

Last evening, my husband and I decided to watch a movie by Martin Scorsese entitled, “Silence.”  It is very long (almost 3 hours) so we didn’t finish watching it.  Perhaps we will finish it tonight.

My first impression was that although this was a movie about Catholic Christian missionaries in 17th century Japan (where Christianity was outlawed and Christians hunted, rounded up, tortured, and then killed in several awful ways), there was something about it that lacked much redeeming value and in fact, proved to be deeply disturbing.  My husband and I hoped that the last portion of the movie would provide more redeeming value, but my sneak preview of the end of the movie proved to be a disappointment.

The following movie review (spoiler alert!) over at The Christian Post asks the question Why Are Christians Praising Scorsese’s ‘Silence’?

Excerpt:

Certainly the notion that Christ would condone apostasy to end someone else’s suffering is deeply problematic.

Jesus left very clear instructions about renouncing Him, saying: “(W)hoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33)

As believers, we know this verse, so the moral Catch-22 in Silence creates a great deal of inner emotional turmoil. We cannot accept the decision Rodrigues made, yet how can we not? This is what makes Silence so potentially treacherous.

Catholic author and editor of Aletia, Daniel McInerny, suggests that Silence raises “the sinister possibility that Christian faith and love are internally conflicted, making a lack of integrity, at least in extreme circumstances, inevitable.”

I agree with McInerny. The movie actually reminded me of a quiz my son was given by a public school teacher, which presented numerous no-win moral dilemmas and then required him to choose. The only purpose I could imagine for the quiz was to undermine a Judeo-Christian ethic, especially since it was given as part of a unit on the Salem Witch Trials.

Silence has this same disastrous potential. It raises a serious theological dilemma, but offers no solution — at least not a biblically viable one.

Read entire review HERE.

I can’t be sure, of course, what went on in the mind of writer of the book that Scorsese adapted into this film. However, my own knowledge of the differences between Roman Catholicism vs. Biblical Christianity give me a hint. Catholicism’s traditions include the concept of “Purgatory,” which is not a biblical belief.  Perhaps this answers the question of the Post writer who asked:

Silence also suggests that one can maintain his faith in complete private, and still be saved. Again, I say suggest because the film doesn’t settle issues; it merely raises them. But what is the viewer supposed to conclude about Rodrigues [Note:  one of the Jesuit priests who denounced his faith later in the movie] clutching a cross at the end?

As we solemnly remember Good Friday, we are reminded that Jesus laid down his life for his friends willingly.  He could have called legions of angels to “rescue” Him from the cross.  If He did that, He would have re-entered heaven alone.   Instead He stayed there to rescue all who would believe in Him from the penalty of their sins.  His sacrificial death was accomplished to defeat eternal death and hell for all human beings who would place their trust in Jesus Christ.

In a comment thread on one of my previous posts, I made the claim that Jesus Christ has fulfilled over 300 Bible prophecies.  There are several yet to be fulfilled at His second coming.  I found a site that lists 353 prophecies fulfilled by Christ!

According to the Scriptures: 353 Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Even with all of this evidence, hardened hearts will still refuse to believe in Jesus!  Amazing…isn’t it?

Why is that?

 1Co 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Even with proof of fulfilled prophecies by Christ, there are those who will continue to refuse the message of the cross.  So, what exactly is missing in those who refuse being saved by the power of God?

No wonder the Holy Spirit guided Paul to write in Hebrews 11:6 the answer to that question.

Heb 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

What Do You Think About Eckhart Tolle?

July 1, 2016

Recently, the suggestion to read a book entitled, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle was given to me by a young man in whom I love and admire.  He was so enthusiastic about what Tolle had written about Jesus, that he thought that I might be enthusiastic about it as well.  He also asked me, “have you ever heard of him and what do you think about Eckhart Tolle?”

I needed to do some research about Tolle, but when I found out that he was one of the “gurus” whose book was featured and endorsed by Oprah Winfrey,  I immediately knew that Tolle’s writings most likely stray away from biblical truth.

*Sigh…*

This young man had contacted me via email and said he wanted to discuss what Tolle wrote regarding what Jesus said in Matthew 6:28.  He didn’t write out the verse, so I looked it up.

Matthew 6:28 – And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.

When we finally had the opportunity to see each other, the version of Matthew 6:28 that he quoted was quite different from what the KJV or the NKJV says.  I was expecting him to quote the verse in this familiar fashion:   “And why are you worried about clothing?”  That is what most “modern” versions say.  Perhaps he was attempting to paraphrase?

Well, we didn’t have much time to get into detail.  I did tell him that Tolle’s book was on Oprah Winfrey’s reading list years ago (2008 – I think).  But we didn’t have the chance to get into a discussion.  Thus, I decided to write a blog post about it.

The first thing I did was look at the individual Bible verse, and read the surrounding Bible verses.  Next, I found biblically-based commentary on the individual verse and surrounding verses, and then read and applied the whole message of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.  The main point of this Sermon is this:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

David Brown’s commentary is a great read. Scroll down to this section and read to the end:

28. And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider–observe well.
the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not–as men, planting and preparing the flax.
neither do they spin–as women.

      29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these–What incomparable teaching!–best left in its own transparent clearness and rich simplicity.

David Guzik’s is an easier read. The point of Matthew 6:28, as well as the entire Sermon on the Mount is this:

 

David Guzik wrote:

4. (33) Summary: Put God’s kingdom first – He will take care of these things!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

a. But seek first the kingdom of God: This must be the rule of our life when ordering our priorities. Yet it is wrong to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities – and to put at the top. Instead, in everything we do, we seek first the kingdom of God.

Guzik continues:

i. For example, we rarely have to choose between honoring God and loving our wives or being good workers. We honor God and seek first the kingdom of God by being good husbands and good workers.

ii. We should also remember this statement in its immediate context. Jesus reminds us that our physical well-being is not a worthy object to devote our lives unto. If you think it is worthy then your god is mammon, your life is cursed with worry, and you live life too much like an animal, concerned mostly with physical needs.

iii. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or a passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion.

iv. “What this verse demands is, therefore, a commitment to find and to do the will of God, to ally oneself totally with his purpose. And this commitment must come first.” (France)

b. And all these things shall be added to you: If you put God’s kingdom first, and do not think that your physical-well being is a worthy object to live your life for, you then may enjoy all these things. He promises heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and fulfillment of God’s highest purpose for man – fellowship with Him, and being part of His kingdom.

i. This choice – to seek first the kingdom of God – is the fundamental choice everyone makes when they first repent and are converted. Yet every day after that, our Christian life will either reinforce that decision or deny it.

5. (34) A conclusion with common sense.

Next, I did some research online and found a list of anti-Christian beliefs promoted by Eckhart Tolle.

  1. God and man are one (pantheism).  Christianity teaches that God is distinct from man, that He created man.
  2.  That human self is an illusion (Buddhism).  Christianity affirms the existence of the human self, but laments it’s corruption by sin.
  3.  Death and the human body are illusions (Buddhism).  Christianity confirms that both are real.
  4.  Jesus is not uniquely God, since everyone is God.  Christianity claims that Jesus is the unique human manifestation of God.

Elsewhere I found:

Gnosticism is an ancient form of the philosophies aere perennius (Latin for “more lasting than bronze”) which Tolle embraces.

Definition of Gnosticism:  A group of ancient heresies, stressing escape from this world through the acquisition of esoteric knowledge.

Gnosticism: (British dictionary).

A religious movement characterized by a belief in Gnosos through which the spiritual element and man could be released from its bondage and matter:  recorded as a heresy by the Christian church.

It is also known that Gnosticism was a mixture of Hellenic, oriental, and Christian elements.

Hellenic:  of, relating to, or characteristic of the ancient Greeks or their language, culture, thought, etc., Especially before the time of Alexander the Great.

Like the Gnostics, Tolle sees Jesus primarily as a teacher and interprets salvation as a transformation of consciousness, kind of waking up to a new awareness.  Christianity certainly affirmed that Jesus is a teacher, but, it emphatically states that he is infinitely more than a spiritual cover.   Jesus is God, and that makes all the difference.  He is not simply one teacher among many who has found a way to God; he, in person, is the way; he is not simply one enlightened figure among many who has come upon the truth; he, in person, is the truth.  What Jesus brings is not only teaching, (however moving Tolle’s opinions may be and how moving and transformative his writings may be) what Jesus brings is the divine life through the salvation offered by the forgiveness of sins at the foot of the cross.  His resurrection to life is proof that the salvation Christians embrace is much more than the clearing up of a false consciousness as Eckhart Tolle professes in his opinions and books.

I do admit that I have not read Eckhart Tolle’s book. However, I don’t have to because I have found Pastor Greg Boyd’s review of  Tolle’s earlier book, “A New Earth” which well describes the author’s spiritual views.

Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. graduate of Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University. founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

 

I suggest reading Boyd’s entire essay. Tolle may have had good intentions, but there is no denying that readers will see the deep divide and contrast between what Tolle attempts to teach, compared to what Scripture states as truth.

Excerpt:

This eastern worldview that Tolle espouses fundamentally contradicts the biblical worldview. It’s important we understand why this is so. For Tolle, the world of distinct things and distinct people is only quasi-real. Ultimate reality is one, “formless,” “pure potentiality,” “pure awareness,” etc. This means that relationships are only quasi-real, since relationships must take place between distinct persons. And this means that love is only quasi-real, since love is obviously a relationship.

This is why Tolle says that the biblical teaching that “God is love” is “not absolutely correct.” The truth, according to Tolle, is that…

God is the One Life and beyond the countless forms of life. Love implies duality: lover and beloved, subject and object. So love is the recognition of oneness in the world of duality (106).

In other words, since duality is not an ultimate reality, love is not an ultimate reality – which is why God can’t be said to be love. Love is rather a means to an end –the end being the recognition that you and all other people are not really distinct. Love thus helps us transcend the world of duality and enter “the light of consciousness itself.” “To love,” Tolle says, “is to recognize yourself in another” (105, emphasis added). For, ultimately, there is no “other” to love. There is only the self.

By contrast – sharp contrast – the biblical worldview affirms that the teaching that “God is love” is not only “absolutely correct” but is the most important and correct truth there is (1 Jn 4:8). In the biblical worldview, God is an eternal, perfect, loving relationship. As Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is eternal, perfect love shared between a plurality of “persons.” Love and plurality are not pen-ultimate realities: they are ultimate reality!

Not only this, but out of perfect love, God created a world filled with ultimately real individuals with the hope that they’d share in and reflect the joy and ecstasy of his eternal, perfect, and ultimately real love. The goal of life, therefore, is not to dissolve all individuality into oneness but to eternally affirm individuality in loving relationship with all other individuals and with God. The goal is not to realize you are God, but to be eternally related to God with a love that participates in the perfect love that God eternally is.

This fundamental difference is clearly manifested in the way Tolle teaches people to “stay awake” and “live in the now,” in contrast to the way Christians such as Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God) and Frank Laubach have helped people “stay awake.” Tolle encourages people to cultivate an on-going awareness of their essential oneness with life. The goal is to transcend the ego and lose any distinct awareness of yourself. By contrast, Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach encourage people to cultivate an on-going awareness of the presence of God and to surrender to this presence on a moment-by-moment basis. Tolle aims at experiencing one’s own divine “I AM” on a moment-by-moment basis. Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach aim at experiencing a loving relationship with the I AM on a moment-by-moment basis.

Clearly, Tolle’s eastern worldview fundamentally contradicts the most important aspect of the biblical worldview.

Scripture informs us that “the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”

1Co 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This is one of the main reasons why the Cross of Jesus Christ is often rejected, while the combination of different forms of spirituality (Gnosticism, Buddhism, Eastern religions etc.) can be appealing to those who dislike the need for repentance given by Christ in his earthly ministry.

Mat 4:17

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

What is more appealing to the self, the ego, the flesh and the mind?

What is more accurate (Tolle’s opinions or the truth of the Bible?) regarding our souls and spirits?

Tolle’s view:

 

If we can remain consciously aware of our essential oneness with all things on a moment-by-moment basis, we will find that the perpetual striving and anxiety that attaches to our individual ego disappears. We will thus be free, fulfilled, peaceful, etc… The three words that are “the secret of all success and happiness” are “One With Life” (115). Instead of living with an ego-centered awareness of how we (as individuals) are distinct from all other things, we must cultivate an ego-free awareness of how we are one with all things on a moment-by-moment basis.

 

Where do we find Christ’s Truth?

 

I am reminded of Paul’s missionary journeys as recorded in Acts 17:16 – 17:34.

Note this portion:

Act 17:21

For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing

 Act 17:22

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;

 Act 17:23

“for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:

 Act 17:24

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.

 Act 17:25

“Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

 Act 17:26

“And He has made from one blood[fn] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

 Act 17:27

“so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

 Act 17:28

“for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Act 17:29

“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Act 17:30

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

Act 17:31

“because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

 

Act 17:32

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.”

Act 17:33

So Paul departed from among them.

Act 17:34

However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

*******

VERY important note:  The same decisions still occur to this day!

 

Some mock.

Some will hear again on this matter.

Some will believe.

 

Dear readers… what is your decision?

 

See:  How To Know God Personally

 

Hat tips to all links, graphics,  and quotes.

The Message of the Cross

March 26, 2016

One of my favorite Bible verses is the following:

1Co 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

All of 1 Corinthians 1 is a strong message for today, as well as it was back then. Ray Stedman’s commentary brilliantly explains why!

The entire Stedman ministries essay is so vitally important that it is difficult to choose just a few excerpts. However, I will share a few of them.

Excerpt #1:

The apostle [Paul] says it is impossible that we can ever arrive at a solution to our needs on this level, because there is something vitally missing. That missing element is the life of the Spirit in man, and without this, he can never solve all the riddles of life. So the apostle answers these schisms and factions and divisions by confronting them with the word of the cross—the word that presents the cross [of] Christ as that instrument by which God cuts off all human wisdom, not as being worthless in its own narrow realm, but as being useless in solving the major problems of man.

When we understand this, we realize that we will never begin to learn until we first learn that we do not know anything. When we come to appreciate the word of the cross, we understand that in the cross of Jesus Christ, God took his own Son, now become man like us, identified with us in every way, and nailed him up to die as being useless as far as solving any of the problems of mankind is concerned. That is the word of the cross; that is why it looks so foolish to the natural man; that is why it proceeds on a totally different principle than the wisdom of the world. And when we accept that, the apostle says, we begin to discover that true, secret, hidden wisdom that unfolds little by little the answers to the problems of life. We begin to understand ourselves and to see why this world is what it is, and where it is heading, and why all the confusion and the difficulties and the problems exist, as the deep things of God, the wisdom which God has hidden in Christ, is unfolded to us through the teaching of the Spirit by the word of God. It is a wonderful section.

And Paul says, “I’m not going to waste any time at all arguing with you about Socrates or Plato or Aristotle, or any other wisdom of men: they have their place, but when it comes to solving the deep-seated problems of human nature, there is only one wisdom that can touch it, and that is the word of the cross.” This becomes, then, one of the mightiest answers of all time to the intellectualism that constantly hounds the Christian church and attempts to undermine it—a false intellectualism. I mean by that that the word of God never attempts to set aside or call worthless the pursuit of knowledge. God intends men to learn things, he designed us that way, but it must be knowledge based upon a right beginning and we are called back to the principle set forth in the Old Testament, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10); that is where we begin.

 

Here is the entire verse:


Pro 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

To truly understand what “the fear” means in Hebrew, seek out Strong’s Concordance.

Lexicon :: Strong’s H3374 – yir’ah

יִרְאָה

Transliteration

yir’ah

Pronunciation

yir·ä’ (Key)

Part of Speech

feminine noun

Root Word (Etymology)

From יָרֵא (H3373)

Dictionary Aids

TWOT Reference: 907b

KJV Translation Count — Total: 45x

The KJV translates Strongs H3374 in the following manner: fear (41x), exceedingly (with H1419) (2x), dreadful (1x), fearfulness (1x).

Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

I.fear, terror, fearing

A.fear, terror

B.awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)

C.fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety

D.revered

Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

יִרְאָה yirʼâh, yir-aw’; feminine of H3373; fear (also used as infinitive); morally, reverence:—× dreadful, × exceedingly, fear(-fulness).

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon

Also notice what Strongs tells us about the word “knowledge.”

Lexicon :: Strong’s H1847 – da`ath

דַּעַת

Transliteration

da`ath

Pronunciation

dah’·ath (Key)

Part of Speech

masculine/feminine noun

Root Word (Etymology)

From יָדַע (H3045)

Dictionary Aids

TWOT Reference: 848c

KJV Translation Count — Total: 93x

The KJV translates Strongs H1847 in the following manner: knowledge (82x), know (6x), cunning (1x), unwittingly 2 (with H1097) (2x), ignorantly (with H1097) (1x), unawares (with H1097) (1x).

Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

I.knowledge

A.knowledge, perception, skill

B.discernment, understanding, wisdom

Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

דַּעַת daʻath, dah’-ath; from H3045; knowledge:—cunning, (ig-) norantly, know(-ledge), (un-) awares (wittingly).

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon

H1847

The importance of the verse stresses knowledge from God because the verse tells us it’s the knowledge from the Holy One [which is] understanding!

I.knowledge

A.knowledge, perception, skill

B.discernment, understanding, wisdom

Where do we get such knowledge? From God’s Word – the Bible!

Stedman covers many of the pitfalls of human sin and how such sin (which is not confessed to God and repented of at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ) would be the greatest mistake any man or woman could make in their lifetime.  All of our human accomplishments will one day fall to dust and blow away.  But belonging to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within is for our spiritual salvation and will make the difference for all eternity!

Second Excerpt:

But one of these days you are going to come to the end, and the testing, the analysis of what your life has been worth, and in that day you will see that if you have been living in the flesh, it is all wood, hay, and stubble. It is burned up, completely worthless, and your life—except for the fact that you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior—is a wasted enterprise. It is possible, even in the religious realm, to gain the approval of men and to be accepted as quite a figure in the church, and to enjoy the favor of others and the prestige that comes from position, and to come to the end, only to discover that the absolutely relentless judgment of God has not been impressed in the least degree by that which originates from anything else but the work of the Spirit of God in you—it has to be the Spirit and not the flesh.

This is exactly why no Christian can EVER take credit for “the work of the Spirit of God in us!”  We are just vessels, as 2 Co 4:7 says “jars of clay”):

2Co 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

This is why the book of Revelation tells us that the “crowns” we receive in heaven will be cast before the throne in an act of worship of Jesus Christ!

Rev 4:9

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

Rev 4:10

the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

Rev 4:11

“You are worthy, O Lord, [fn]
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist [fn] and were created.”

Third Excerpt:

But what a triumphant paean of proof and praise is in this chapter concerning the resurrection. Paul closes it with what is his whole point. Everything in this whole letter comes right down to this one verse (verse 58):

Therefore, [because of all he has said up to this point] my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

Chapter 16 is just a postscript in which he catches up certain little things that the church needed to know, very important to us, but then he comes back to this theme again:

Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong, Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 11:13, 14)

 

Hat tips to all links.


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