Daily Archives: August 8, 2016

CultureWatch: Rio, Christ and the Olympics

Millions of people have just watched the opening ceremony of the 31st Olympiad, the summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. Now they will settle down for over two weeks of sport, competition and athleticism. And it will be quite a spectacle indeed, with over 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries competing in over 300 events.

The first Olympics held in South America, this is an event which will be watched by millions, if not billions, of people across the globe. And for good reason: this is riveting viewing, with superb athletes in peak condition from around the world competing to be the best, the fastest, the highest, the longest and the most accurate.

That sport can be turned into a god for many of course goes without saying. But most would acknowledge that having people from all sorts of different countries vying for a prize at a sporting arena is preferable to having them competing by means of bombs, bullets and armed conflict.

How much an event like this really brings diverse peoples together in any sort of lasting peace and harmony is of course debatable. But as I say, competing with others in the pool or on the track is preferable to competing with others behind tanks and fighter planes.

christ the redeemer 4And for countless viewers this will be a welcome time out from ordinary life. For a few weeks it will mean millions of people might forget about some of their pressing concerns and simply enjoy the games. Thus I will be tuning in from time to time as well.

But of course as a Christian I must view even something as incredible as the Olympics in the light of eternity. Many athletes will be competing for earthly glory, earthly awards, and earthy prizes. It is all good in its place, but at the end of the day we really should be competing for heavenly glory, heavenly awards and heavenly prizes.

We toil and struggle for earthy fame, recognition and awards, but of far greater importance is to work for God’s approval and his rewards. The Apostle Paul even used imagery from the Olympics of his day to make these truths. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he expresses things this way:

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

Corinth of course was where the Isthmian Games were held, games similar to those of the Olympics. So Paul was likely drawing directly on these games when he encouraged the Corinthians to run the spiritual race and fight the spiritual fight.

Other such sporting metaphors and images can be found in places such as 1 Corinthians 4:9; 15:32; Galatians 2:2; 5:7; Ephesians 6:12; Philippians 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:7-8; and Hebrews 12:1-2. So the sporting world was quite well known to Paul and his converts.

They took the realities of the sporting events of their day and used them to illustrate eternal spiritual truths. As he said in 1 Cor. 9, “They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” That is the one key truth we must all lay hold of.

At the opening ceremony at Rio some of the past great Olympians took part in the proceedings. Of course most were much older and certainly not in the same shape as they were when they won gold, or silver, or bronze. And of course many of these older Olympic champions are now long gone. So all their earthy glory, fame and accolades now mean nothing to them.

All that matters now is where they stand with God. Have they been reconciled to God thought Christ, repenting of their sins and finding new life? Or have they died without Christ and are now facing a lost eternity? That is the only really vital thing that matters at the end of the day.

Sure, we enjoy sports’ excellence and we can enjoy these games while they last. But all the athletes competing, and the officials involved, and all the viewers enjoying the games will find that all this will come to an end in just over two weeks.

Then it is back to the same old routine, until another major event comes along for the athletes to compete in, or for the viewers to take their mind off their problems and keep them from facing reality. But there is only so much spectacle and entertainment. We all must face the real world and our eternal condition sooner or latter.

Those are the most important choices we can ever make. Winning those races and being victorious in those fights is what really matters most in life. Thus it is my prayer that all those now consumed by the Olympic Games think about the bigger issues in life.

And there are plenty of reminders out there to this end. Indeed, we saw one such reminder again today as we watched the opening ceremony. As the panoramic shots of the main stadium were taken and the fireworks we going off, we saw once again one of the great statues of modern times.

I refer to the 30 metre tall Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio and the Olympics. This impressive work of art was completed in 1931 after 9 years of construction. The outstretched arms span some 28 metres. It stands like a sentinel over the city, and it of course a massive tourist attraction.

The sad truth is, this incredible structure will likely mean very little to most people today. Most may not even know what it is called. And if they do, they likely do not know what a redeemer is, and why he is so important. It is that enduring truth that we must once again come to understand and appreciate.

Christ is indeed the redeemer. He has come to redeem us from our sins. Our sin and selfishness has separated us from God and we are now in need of redemption. And that too is a term that has a very real history for the New Testament writers.

When a slave was bought and set free back then, the one doing the purchase was a redeemer – he paid the price that was required to secure the slave’s freedom. That is just what Christ has done for us by means of his death and resurrection at Calvary 2000 years ago. See more on this marvellous term here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/05/11/christ-our-redeemer/

I am not alone in reminding people during these games of the really important things in life. Right now many Christian groups, churches and individuals are sharing the good news of Jesus Christ at Rio and other places. Because I know most about one such group, let me briefly mention it.

Youth With A Mission is there with many young people doing all forms of evangelism and outreach and mercy ministries. As they say on their website:

From August 5-21, 2016, over 200 nations will be competing in the Olympic Games, and we will be right there to reach out to tourists who arrive in Rio de Janeiro. We’ll also minister in word and deed to the residents of Rio. There will be many different ministry opportunities, such as: human trafficking, sports ministry, prayer, drama, music, dance, arts, Bible distribution, etc.

Well done YWAM. If you are a Christian, please pray for these guys and all the other Christians involved in reaching the masses who have converged on Rio. It is a very needy city indeed apart from the Olympics – full of poverty, crime, corruption, sleaze and immorality. Rio needs Christ, as does every city, and every inhabitant of those cities.

So enjoy the games – either by being there or viewing them on television. And remember what Christ the Redeemer is all about. The statue represents the most enduring truth going: without Christ we are all lost and in a serious mortal condition. With Christ we have redemption, forgiveness of sins, and a new life with God.


The problem with tolerating false teachers is…

In this blog post Elizabeth Prata of The End Time reveals the results of 30 years of letting false teaching in the Church slide. Prata laments that we are reaping the penalty of false teaching from the likes of Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, as well as “Experiencing God” that took the SBC by storm. Now we are faced with a “soft youth who are growing up as the next generation of leaders.”

Elizabeth offers her view of what should be done about this.

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Travel Advisory: “Pay Up to Pray Up For Instant Miracles Tour” Coming To Florida

Benny Hinn, Reinhard Bonnke, Bill Johnson, Lou Engle, Todd White, Michael & Jessica Koulianos, all wolves in sheep’s clothing, are among those who will star in an event planned in Orlando in December that discerning Christians will not be attending. Bud Ahlheim of Pulpit & Pen fills us in on the details of the gathering:

Wolf packVacation season is wrapping up in Florida as school time is revving up for another year. In the wake of the summer holiday cessation, something else is starting to rev up in the sunshine state … the continuationist healing parade of spiritual charlatans.

While the enemy, we know, is pervasive, persistent, and always on the prowl, his upcoming performances will be particularly focused on the sandy edged shores of the Florida peninsula.

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Christian Film Confronts Christians Addiction to Pornography

The issue of pornography and its devastating impacts has certainly gained wider attention in our culture. From the pulpit to the blogosphere, we’re hearing more and more conversations about how porn harms people. But a serious Christian documentary film confronting the objectification and emotional and spiritual enslavement perpetuated by the porn industry is a fresh missional approach.

The Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin once fell on hard financial times and needed a means to keep its doors open. Lessors decided to show X-rated films. Thank goodness times have changed for the historic theatre. On Saturday, August 6, the Grand Opera House will open its doors to show a different kind of pornography film:The Heart of the Matter, a film documentary offering a compassionate response to Christians addicted to pornography and sex.

“The beautiful irony of a venue which used to profit from pornography now set to show a film about redemption from pornography perfectly illustrates God’s total restoration,” said Daniel Weiss, founder and president of The Brushfires Foundation, the Christian non-profit organization behind the Seeds of Fire Community Engagement documentary film.

I’m not one to support every out-of-the-box new ministry email that comes my way. But when Weiss’ subject line read “Midwest film festival proclaiming orthodox Christian sexual ethics,” well, I couldn’t help but reply.

“We are using documentary films to open discussion about topics that the church is often silent on or uncomfortable with,” Weiss wrote. “Following the films we feature local and national subject-matter experts to explore the messages in the films and take audience questions.”

The issue of pornography and its devastating impacts has certainly gained wider attention in our culture. From the pulpit to the blogosphere, we’re hearing more and more conversations about how porn harms people. But a serious Christian documentary film confronting the objectification and emotional and spiritual enslavement perpetuated by the porn industry is a fresh missional approach.

Not only is  the Seeds of Fire film project a new way to spread awareness of sexual brokenness, but it’s a unique way to share the Gospel.

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God’s Holiness and Your Worship

Exodus 15:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:16; Revelation 4:8

Code: B160808

by John MacArthur

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you worship God? Is it His infinite wisdom, His unlimited power, or His ultimate sovereignty? Is it some attribute or characteristic you find particularly appealing, awe-inspiring, or comforting?

Knowing that God is immutable, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient is significant, but those attributes give limited insight into what God expects of us. What is it–beyond His unchanging, all–powerful, infinitely knowing presence—that compels us to worship?

It is basically this: God is holy. Of all the attributes of God, holiness is the one that most uniquely describes Him and in reality is a summation of all His other attributes. The word holiness refers to His separateness, His otherness, the fact that He is unlike any other being. It indicates His complete and infinite perfection. Holiness is the attribute of God that binds all the others together. Properly understood, it will revolutionize the quality of our worship.

When they exalted God, the angels didn’t say, “Eternal, Eternal, Eternal,”; they didn’t say, “Faithful, Faithful, Faithful,”; “Wise, Wise, Wise”; or “Mighty, Mighty, Mighty.” They said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty” (Revelation 4:8). His holiness is the crown of all that He is.

Exodus 15:11 asks, “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” The answer, of course, is that no being is equal to God in holiness. In fact, holiness is so uniquely and exclusively an attribute of God that Psalm 111:9 says, “Holy and awesome is His name.” That doesn’t merely mean that the name of God is sacred and sanctified; it means holiness is so much the essence of God’s character that Holy is one of the names God goes by.

The Standard of Absolute Holiness

God doesn’t conform to a holy standard; He is the standard. He never does anything wrong, He never errs, He never makes a misjudgment, He never causes something to happen that isn’t right. There are no degrees to His holiness. He is holy, flawless, without error, without sin, fully righteous—utterly, absolutely, infinitely holy.

To dwell in God’s presence, one must be holy. That was demonstrated when the angels sinned. God immediately cast them out and prepared a place for them separated from His presence. When sinful humans choose not to come to God, when they choose to reject Jesus Christ, their ultimate end is to be sent to the place prepared for the devil and his angels, out of the presence of God.

Hebrews 12:14 clearly states that apart from holiness, no one will see the Lord. The problem for us is that God’s standard of holiness is absolute perfection. His own unblemished holiness is the ultimate criterion by which we are judged. Peter articulated that truth when he wrote: “It is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus said the same thing: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

This presents a seemingly impassible barrier for fallen humanity, because we have all sinned. We are fatally blemished by our own sinfulness. What God requires of us, we simply cannot attain on our own. Indeed, our very nature is tainted to the core with sin. Sinfulness has corrupted every aspect of our mind, our hearts, and our wills. We cannot be perfect; we are already deeply imperfect—seriously and indelibly corrupted with evil desires, evil motives, evil thoughts, and evil deeds. We thus have no hope whatsoever of ever obtaining for ourselves the perfect holiness God requires.

Holiness and Imputation

But God’s plan of salvation solves that whole dilemma in a remarkable and multifaceted way. God’s own perfect righteousness is imputed—or put to the account of—every sinner who believes in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ took our sin and paid for it, we get credit for His righteousness and are rewarded for it. “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Authentic faith therefore entails shedding every pretense of our own righteousness and confessing that we are hopeless sinners. In fact, even the most fastidious attempts to earn merit of our own count for nothing in God’s sight. Our very best, most charitable human works are all deeply flawed because of our sinfulness. They are like garbage in God’s holy estimation. But He imputes His own perfect righteousness to those who repent of their self-righteousness and trust Christ as Lord and Savior (see Philippians 3:8-9). That gives us an immediate right standing before God: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Having already justified us and clothed us in a garment of perfect righteousness (not one of our own making, but Christ’s righteousness imputed to us), God is now conforming us to greater and greater Christlikeness, thus making us fit for heaven. When we die, or when Christ returns, that process will be instantly completed in our glorification (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2).

That is why we speak of God’s holiness as one of His communicable attributes—one of the perfections of God that His creatures can, to some degree, share and participate in. God conforms us to the perfection of His own holy standard. He instantly gives us a righteous standing, and then over time He makes us perfectly holy. That is a fair summary of what God does for us in salvation.

Holiness and Hating Sin

God’s holiness is best seen in His hatred of sin. God cannot tolerate sin; He is totally removed from it. Amos 5:21–23 records God’s strong words to those attempting to worship Him while polluted with sin:

I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.

That does not mean that God hates sacrifices and offerings and festivals and music as a means of worship. God desires all those things, because He instituted them. Rather, the point is God hates any kind of worship that is tainted with sin.

God doesn’t want you to sin, even if it would make your testimony more exciting, or display His grace to a greater degree (Romans 6:1-2). He never approves sin. He will not necessarily keep you from sinning, and He may even use your sin to further His own wise and holy purposes. But He does not ever sanction or condone sin, and even when someone’s sin helps fulfill the outworking of God’s eternal plan, it is always the creature, not God, who is the agent responsible for sin. God never actively tempts or entices anyone to sin, and He Himself cannot be tempted to sin (James 1:13). Sin is the object of His displeasure. God loves holiness. Psalm 11:7 says, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness.”

Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness

Acknowledging and understanding the Lord’s utter holiness is essential to true worship. Psalm 96:2–6 exhorts us to:

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

That describes acts of worship. Verse 9 makes the key statement: “Worship the Lord in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth.” Holy attire means the spiritual clothing of holiness. Tremble before Him implies fear. In fact, the King James Version translates that verse, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”

Here we are introduced to the frequent biblical connection of the idea of God’s holiness with fear on the part of the worshiper. It is a fear that grows out of an overwhelming sense of unworthiness in the presence of pure holiness. Next time we’ll consider why that fear is appropriate, and why it’s missing from much of what passes for worship today.

(Adapted from Worship: The Ultimate Priority.)

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