Sunday, August 30, 2009

What About the Kingdom of Heaven?

Q: We pray in the Lord’s prayer “Thy kingdom come.” Is the Kingdom a future “event,” or does the Kingdom exist in reality now?

In the Scriptures the kingdom of God is conceived of in different ways. On the one hand, God rules over all things, and always has. “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34).

On the other hand, the kingdom of God is conceived of as having a beginning in history, at the time of Christ.

God’s kingdom and rule are eternal; but with the fall, the human race entered into a state of rebellion against his authority. Thus God seeks to reassert his crown rights and reduce the rebels to a willing and whole-hearted obedience…or else destroy them if they remain impenitent. This is the cosmic battle, of which we are all a part. We are all enlisted on one side or the other. It is a battle of two kingdoms: the kingdom of heaven, governed by God vs. the kingdom of the world, governed by the devil.

Jesus’ incarnation was an invasion of the kingdom of God into hostile territory—where God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to earth to reclaim territory held by his enemies. In this sense, we can think of the kingdom of God as having a beginning at the time of Christ.

In fact, I think it’s helpful to think of the kingdom as being definitively established at the time of Christ; progressively established through history; and finally established at the consummation of all things, when Christ comes again.

The definitive establishment of the kingdom of God took place in Jesus’ day. The kingdom came when Jesus came. He began his ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:14-15; Matt. 4:17). In other words, “The time has come; the time is now; the kingdom is here.” During his ministry Jesus told the Pharisees that his casting out of demons was proof that the kingdom of God had come (Matt. 12:28). He also said that the kingdom was in their midst (Lk. 17:21).

The point is that, Jesus, in his ministry, life, death, resurrection, and ascension definitively established the kingdom of God. His ascension and seating at the right hand of God the Father was his formal inauguration as King (Acts 2:22-36).

But then the kingdom of God grows and expands in history as more and more people come to submit to the Lordship (Kingship) of Jesus. When someone is “born again” (Jn. 3:3, 5) he is “delivered...from the domain of darkness and the kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Jesus told the parables of the mustard tree and of the leaven to illustrate the progressive and expansive nature of the kingdom (Matt. 13:31-32, 33).

The kingdom of God will continue to grow until it is all-encompassing. “He [Christ] must reign until he [God] has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). This refers to a time when all men and nations are brought to obedience—when all opposition to the rule of God is brought to an end. “Then comes the end,” we are told, “when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (v. 24).

The kingdom of God, then, is a present reality; although we don’t experience it in its fullness. When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come”, we are praying for the progressive expansion of the rule of God over the hearts and lives of men. It’s a prayer that non-Christians would be converted (in this sense it is an evangelistic prayer), and a prayer that the saints would grow up into the full stature of Christian maturity by ordering their lives according to the rule laid down in God’s word.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What About the Holy Spirit

Please explain the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Holy Trinity, and as such, he is a Divine Person.

Some people don’t think of the Holy Spirit as a person. They think of him as an impersonal power or force, like electricity. This is reflected in how they speak of him. They don’t use personal pronouns when speaking of him, which is to say, they don’t say, “he” or “him.” They say “it,” when referring to the Spirit.

But it is quite clear from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is a person. Personal acts are frequently attributed to him. He knows (1 Cor. 2:10-11); he wills (1 Cor. 12:11); he speaks (Jn. 16:13; Acts 10:19; cf. 11:12; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 14:13); he can be lied to (Acts 5:3); he can be tested (Acts 5:9); he can be grieved (Eph. 4:30); fellowship can be had with him (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1); he teaches (Jn. 14:26); he intercedes (Rom. 8:26-27); he can be pleased (Acts 15:28); he makes men overseers of the church (Acts 20:28).

It is for this reason that we have numerous instances of personal pronouns being used of the Holy Spirit. When the leaders of the church at Antioch were worshiping the Lord and fasting, “the Holy Spirit said [speaking is a personal act], ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’ ” (Acts 13:2). Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (Jn. 15:26; cf. Jn. 16:13-14).

The close association of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son in both the baptismal formal (Matt. 28:19) and in what is called the apostolic benediction (2 Cor. 13:14), leads us to the same conclusion—that the Holy Spirit is a person.

Baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—this formula—presents the Holy Spirit as an object of our faith (hence, also an object of our worship). In baptism we acknowledge belief in, and commitment to, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It would be more than just a little strange if we should acknowledge the Father as a distinct person and the Son as a distinct person, but not the Holy Spirit. Why would the Holy Spirit be included in this formula if he were not a person like the Father and the Son?

The Holy Spirit, then, is a person, and ought to be spoken of as a person. And even more than this, he ought to be spoken of as a Divine person.

The Scriptural evidence for the Deity of the Holy Spirit is very clear and compelling.

Again we have to consider his close association with the Father and the Son in the baptismal formula and the apostolic benediction. This benediction is found in 2 Cor. 13:14, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. It’s an invocation of blessing from the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

Also, we should consider that lying to the Holy Spirit is said to be lying to God (Acts 5:3-4); that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31-32); that believers are said to be a “dwelling place for God” because of the Holy Spirit within us (Eph. 2:22; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19); that divine attributes are ascribed to the Holy Spirit: he is said to be eternal (Heb. 9:14), omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11), and omnipresent (Ps. 139:7). We also find that he participated in the divine work of creation (Gen. 1:2).

The Holy Spirit is that member of the Godhead who takes the finished work of Jesus Christ and applies it to the elect. He convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come (Jn. 16:8-10). He presses home the claims of the gospel. He is the one who gives the new birth (Jn. 3:3-8). He is the one who brings people to faith and repentance. And he is the one who sanctifies believers and conforms them to the image of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:2).

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Recession is Over?

I was thinking about posting a few comments about the economic recovery which is supposed to be underway, along with a few graphs to illustrate my point, which is that what is heralded as a recovery might just be a lull in the economic storm similar to what was experienced in the first year and a half after the stock market crash in 1929. Although 1929 is thought of as THE disastrous year, the worst year of the Depression was actually 1932--after government policies to fight the problem had had time to make matters worse. It's likely that had the government done nothing and simply allowed the market to correct itself, the Great Depression would have been known as the Not So Great Depression. As I said, I was getting ready to post some notes on the subject when I ran across a good article by Vox Day who made the point far better, and in much more detail than I would have. Take a look here.

Rifqa spared...for now

Rifqa Bary of the previous post has had her extradition to Ohio (with her feared honor killing) postponed. At least for now. There will be another hearing September 3rd.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pray for Rifqa Bary

I don't know whether or not you have been following the story about Rifqa Bary, the 17 year old ethnic Sri Lankan who converted from Islam. But if you haven't, you should. And you should also watch this interview with her. She escaped from her family in Ohio, fearing that she would be a victim of an "honor" killing by her father for converting to Christianity. She has found refuge by living with a Christian family in Florida, but the powers that be are forcing her to move back to Ohio with her family. O Lord, "Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked" (Ps. 82:4).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Free Market is the Answer

Check out the always humorous and insightful Ann Coulter on the free market's answer to the problems with U.S. health care.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What About the Ten Commandments?

Why were the Ten Commandments given, and were they meant for all peoples, or just for the Israelites? And should they be posted in court rooms?

The Ten Commandments form a summary of man’s moral obligation before God. They were given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai some 3,500 years ago, but they spell out man’s duty to God for all peoples in all times.

It’s unfortunate, but many Christians have a very negative view of God’s law. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first has to do with our fallen human nature. We simply don’t like to be told what to do. And we don’t like to have it pointed out to us that our behavior is at certain points sinful. We want to do whatever we want, with no limitations to our freedom. But God’s law says that some things are out of bounds; some things are off limits for us, and if we do them it angers God.

The second reason why many Christians have a negative view of the law is because of a misunderstanding of some things that Paul says in the New Testament. He says, for instance, that we are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). People have isolated this statement from its context and have interpreted it to mean that the law has no validity for a Christian, no ongoing binding authority. They think it only applied in the period of the Old Testament.

In context, however, what Paul is saying is that Christians are not under the law as a means of justification. We are justified by the grace of God, and not by the law.

Does this mean then that the law has no role in the life of the Christian? No. It doesn’t mean that at all. The law is still the standard of righteousness that we are to live by. Paul tells us in Romans 7:12 that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” He says in 1 Corinthians, “Neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19).

It is common among theologians to refer to several “uses” of the law.

One of these is that it serves as the standard of righteous behavior. In other words, it teaches us what God requires of us. And as God’s people we should desire this instruction.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD,and whom you teach out of your law (Ps. 94:12).

Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! (Ps. 119:12)

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! (Ps. 119:29)

Another use of the law is that it convicts us of sin.

Through law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20)

If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet (Rom. 7:7)

So the law convicts us of sin; and being convicted of sin, we are prepared to seek the grace and mercy of God offered to us in Jesus Christ.

Another use of the law is that of restraining evil in society. The Bible teaches that the civil magistrate “does not bear the sword in vain,” but is a “servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). In other words, civil magistrates are to rule on behalf of God, and they are to rule in terms of God’s law.

So then, even though they were given specifically to the Israelites 1,500 years before Christ, the Ten Commandments apply to all peoples in all times, and they ought to form the foundation of a nation’s legal system.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is this how you ride your bike?

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you might have come to learn that I have a fascination with what people have been able to train themselves to do. Speed, strength, balance, agility, you know...all the things I don't have.

The guy's name is Danny MacAskill

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hand Eye Coordination

What do you get when you combine basketball and juggling skills? Take a look.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Wish the Fed was Dead

One of the worst things that the Congress of the United States ever did was to create the Federal Reserve System in 1913. If I am not mistaken, the U.S. was the last world-power to create a central bank, largely because our Christian consensus made us deeply suspicious of placing so much power into the hands of so few individuals. A handful of non-elected officials (and therefore not accountable to the taxpayers) make monetary policy decisions that can wreak not only national but international havoc. Check out Fed Chairman Ben Bernake being very closely questioned by Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Florida. Bernake's responses are not at all encouraging.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009