"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard
To be saved means to be rescued. De-theologizing that the word salvation for a moment may help us here to answer the question. We needrescue. We are in dire straights and without rescue, we will be lost. What sort of rescue do we need and what does it mean to be lost?
What are we saved from? We could answer “sin.” That would be true. We could also answer, “death,” which would be no less true. We could even answer “Satan,” which again would be true. In this sense, we have multiple and interlocked threats from which we need rescue.
Rescue is a useful word. To be saved means to be rescued. De-theologizing that the word salvation for a moment may help us here to answer the question. We need rescue. We are in dire straights and without rescue, we will be lost. What sort of rescue do we need and what does it mean to be lost?
Scripture provides three interlocking answers: sin, death, and Satan vie against us. Sin brings justice which we know as divine wrath, so that we must pay restitution and so satisfy justice’s demand to avoid it; death kills us, so that we need immortality to avoid it; Satan deceives us, so that we need to conquer the deceiver to overcome his schemes.
Let’s take these one-by-one to see how Scripture outlines these threats, and how Christ rescues us from each.
The three deadly threats, the unholy trinity of sin, death, and satan really cannot be parsed apart. For the sake of explanation, we can talk about them separately however. Human sin begins in the garden of Eden. There, the serpent deceived Eve by telling her to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And on the day that Adan and Eve ate from the tree, they began to die.
This narrative probably underlies Jesus’s statement that: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan lied about the tree, and he murdered Adam and Eve by deception. They lost immortality.
They knew good from evil, but not like God does. God knows good in perfection and that evil is the lack of that goodness. Now, Adam and evil lacked goodness. They knew good from evil by privation not by addition. The serpent deceived the first couple to death.
The new legalism doesn’t say ‘keep away.’ The new legalism says do more and more and the doing becomes the new law. Like with the old legalism, it takes a biblical principle and pushes it too far.
I have previously commented that we have a surprising problem with gospel freedom. More often than not, it isn’t what the Bible says that seems to cause us problems but more what it doesn’t say. We are prone to seeing our way of doing things as a good way (which it might well be). But what we consider a good way soon becomes the best way (which, still, it could be). Only, the best way quickly gets called the right way which, soon enough, becomes the only way that, in turn, becomes synonymous with a biblical mandate (at least, in our minds).
There is, sadly, a new form of this legalism on the rise. I say new legalism to distinguish it from the old form that we all claim to hate. The old legalism largely said keep away. Don’t do certain things and all will be well. It insisted on no cinema, no theatre, no drinking, no long hair and these sorts of things. As long as you are keeping away from A, B and C your righteousness is effectively in the bag. And most modern folks look at that and say, no thanks.
But the new legalism doesn’t say ‘keep away.’ The new legalism says do more and more and the doing becomes the new law. Like with the old legalism, it takes a biblical principle and pushes it too far.
Old legalism took good biblical principles of holiness and keeping oneself unspotted from the world (which is right and proper) and pressed them into all sorts of areas of life. The biblical command not to be drunk turned into a rule to never drink, the biblical principles surrounding modesty came with definite views on just what items of clothes could possibly be considered modest and a host of things like these. Right biblical ideas over-applied and over-reaching so that wider principles became rules and clear commands got extended well beyond the command itself. Again, most of us see these things clearly enough now.
But the new legalism takes a different set of principles and over-applies them. The new buzzwords are things like ‘missional living’, ‘community’ and ‘doing life together.’ Now all those things are rightly rooted in biblical principles. The Lord clearly commands us to be hospitable and welcome one another as Christ welcomed us. We are to spend time together and bear one another’s burdens (and all the other ‘one another’ things that demand we actually spend time together). The principles in which these things are rooted are thoroughly biblical. But the problem comes when those principles are pressed into rules that the bible simply doesn’t demand. It becomes a problem when we insist our ‘rules’ – good, or even best, as they may be for our specific context – are pressed into every context.
Is Christianity worth it? What are the benefits of Christianity? Apart from the promise of eternal life at the end, what good will it do me? How will it help me here and now? To put it more popularly, is it all “pie in the sky when you die” or is there also “steak on the plate while you wait?”
If people think that Christianity is all and only about future reward in heaven, it will have the following results:
Dangerous delay: People will delay faith as long as they can and then sign up for their heavenly insurance policy just before the end.
Half-hearts: People will not pursue Christ or holiness with vigor because there’s no immediate advantage in it.
Gritted teeth: Christians adopt a “grin and bear it” approach to the Christian life. We just have to put up with present losses in the hope of eventual heavenly gain.
Cold legalism: We instruct our children to do things merely because they are commanded, which runs the risk of legalism.
Spiritual Blindness: We don’t see the glory and beauty of Christian ethics, but just bare commands.
The question then is, can we add motivation to our morals? Morals are about what we should do or not do; motivation is about the why. Morals are the rules; motivations are the rewards.
The good news is that God has attached motives to his morals to stimulate and empower obedience. In other words, Christianity is worth it, not only for future rewards but because of present rewards.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this because motivational science has found that unless there is some present reward it’s very hard to keep going at anything. God knew that before they did (e.g. Exodus 19:5-6; 20:12).
For more, see my sermon notes from my fourth sermon in the Proverbs series entitled Wisdom University (download pdf here). Scroll down a bit further and you’ll find a one-page sermon summary infographic. Index to previous sermons in the series here.
It is shocking how often we ignore crucial warnings, until it is too late:
History is full of tragedies and catastrophes because of warnings that have gone unheeded. Numerous warnings are given about various things, but when they fall on deaf ears, all sorts of bad results can happen. We find this happening over and over again. It seems we will just not learn.
Sure, some things can happen just out of the blue, and no prior warning is possible. But we do try to help people to be prepared for certain things, including natural disasters. Thus we have advanced warning systems in place to try to help us be alerted to things like impending earthquakes or tsunamis, or tornadoes.
But many things that humans do that result in so much damage and destruction have been warned about – sometimes years earlier. But it seems that we prefer to ignore the warnings and just pretend that everything is just business as usual. Let me look at different sorts of unheeded warnings
Warnings in history
There would be all sorts of examples of this that we could highlight. Let me offer just a few of them. A classic example would be what took place on December 7, 1941: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A number of people had made warnings about Japanese assaults on the US. For example, General William Billy Mitchell had warned that Japan would launch attacks on America – including Hawaii. And an older news report discusses warnings that were rejected:
A more recent attack also seems to have been warned about – but to no avail. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was not a complete surprise. For example, FBI agent John O’Neill was keeping a close eye on Islamic terrorism in general and Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in particular.
His many warnings seemed to annoy some of the powers that be, and he was forced out of the FBI in August 2001. Even then, he warned that the Twin Towers would still be the focus of terrorist attacks. And the rest is history, with his warnings ignored, and some 3000 Americans murdered – himself included. A few years later a book was written about the man.
And warnings can be about not just national dangers, but about much more personal threats. A friend was just telling me of the dangers of crocodiles in the north of Australia. Plenty of signs are posted there warning people to stay well away, but still we have one person after another ignoring the warnings, only to become lunch for large, hungry crocodiles.
Warnings in Scripture
Obviously, the Bible itself offers us many warnings – many of which are tragically ignored. Let me offer just a few of them. Way back in Genesis 6:1-8 we have the warning about God’s great displeasure in the human race and how judgment is coming soon.
Recall what we learn about Noah in 2 Peter 2:5 where he is called “a preacher of righteousness.” He had many decades to warn others about the coming judgment of God, but only his household of eight people made it as the flood ravaged the earth.
And the OT prophets constantly warned Israel about judgment to come, but the people routinely ignored and despised such words. Indeed, God had even warned Jeremiah that the people would refuse to listen, but that he must continue to make the warnings, nonetheless – decade after decade.
In the New Testament we have other warnings. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says this: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
And of course we have numerous warnings about the return of the Lord, and how we must all be prepared for his Second Coming. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Warnings in the culture wars
We also have so many warnings concerning the culture wars that we find ourselves in. I and others have made such warnings for decades, but far too often they seem to have fallen on deaf ears. I just told around 300 people over the weekend that we have time and time again failed to heed the warnings that have been given about what the secular left has in store for us.
I could point to hundreds of articles on this site alone where warning after warning has been given, be it about the homosexual agenda, the implications of legalising homosexual marriage, or where the new PC intolerance culture is taking us. I have offered so many case studies already of Christians being fined, fired or jailed in the West for standing for biblical truth, but most believers live as if none of this is happening.
Let me finish by highlighting the warnings of one brave woman. She had survived the Nazi occupation of Austria and now warns Americans that such tyranny is still a very real threat today. Let me quote just a few snippets from one piece on her:
Kitty Werthmann survived Hitler. “What I am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard or read in history books,” she likes to tell audiences. “I am a witness to history. I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history. We voted him in….”
“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back. Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.
She then speaks about the nationalisation of the banks, of education, of health care and the absolute menace of socialism. She then says this:
“Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily. No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.”
“Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.”
I spoke this weekend about cultural Marxism and how the incremental approach is the main strategy. Instead of a full-on assault on all that we hold dear, the other side is involved in the ‘long march through the institutions”. They are slowly and subtly taking over from within.
As with the frog put in a pot of water, with the heat slowly turned up until it is too late and it dies, we are having our culture white-anted from within, but most folks have no clue this is even happening. Bit by bit, piece by piece, we are losing our basic freedoms, and we are inexorably heading to Big Brother statism.
The only question is, will people heed our warnings? If recent history is anything to go by, I am not very hopeful. But I for one will keep sounding the alarm. I want to be able to say with Ezekiel that I have fulfilled my duties in this regard, and blood is not on my hands (see Ex. 3 and 33).
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11 (NASB)
As has been clearly shown, the easy-believism “gospel” as well as any version of it that either calls for more works (i.e. piety) on the part of the believer over and above believing the Gospel and receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour or suggests that the saving work of Christ on the Cross was not “sufficient enough” to cover the sins of those He came to save, therefore they must somehow achieve perfection on their own or enter into some form…
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Many Christians today seek to love those who feel judged by the words they find in the Bible. People search the Scriptures in an attempt to prove that certain beliefs they want to hold—or certain actions they want to keep doing—are okay in God’s sight. Lifestyles Christians previously and universally viewed as sinful according to the Bible are now increasingly tolerated, accepted, and even celebrated.
Yet, things that make us feel good are not always good for us. In her Gospel Coalition article, “Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth,” Rosaria Butterfield writes:
The supernatural power that comes with being born again means that where I once had a single desire—one that says if it feels good, it must be who I really am—I now have twin desires that war within me: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17). And this war doesn’t end until Glory.
The Christian life is a struggle, because now there is new spiritual life where there was once just the flesh.This flesh, which God originally made good, is now corrupted because of Adam’s disobedience and fall in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16–17; 3:1–19). The Holy Spirit now indwells all believers and is doing the work of sanctification in their lives. This is a lifelong process of dying to the flesh and living unto God.
It is not easy to give up the things in life that we love, but if they are opposed to God’s will, this is what Christ calls us to do:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:37–38)
Love and keeping Jesus’ commands go together. Jesus told his disciples:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Focusing on lovingly affirming others in their desired lifestyles seems appealing at first. In the long run, however, we do great harm to people when we affirm them in life choices that the Bible calls sinful. Declaring that something is not sinful because of our careful, nuanced study and argumentation doesn’t mean we have done such research properly and are correct in our conclusions.
We can believe whatever we want about anything, but that doesn’t make it true. Our efforts to justify wrong behavior go all the way back to the garden of Eden as well (Gen. 3:1–13). As the preacher stated in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The apostle Paul points out how true love and truth are inextricably entwined:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor. 13:4–6)
Butterfield reminds us of the priority of love in the words we speak to others:
On the biblical side, we often have failed to offer loving relationships and open doors to our homes and hearts, openness so unhindered that we are as strong in loving relationship as we are in the words we wield.
Are you a Christian who knows a fellow believer who is caught up in an ongoing sin that he or she is justifying for some reason? This person needs your love, prayers, support, and biblical truth regarding his or her behavior (Gal. 6:1). Don’t expect a Christian who is struggling with such a sin to easily be able to “just stop it.” It could take a while, maybe even years or a lifetime. Fighting sin is difficult—indeed, it is the biggest battle any of us will ever face in this life. This is why every Christian needs the oversight of a faithful church and the fellowship of the saints, for God did not mean for any of us to face this battle alone.
Are you a Christian who knows a non-Christian who is caught up in an ongoing sin? This person also needs your love, prayers, and support, but what he or she needs most of all is the truth about the glorious gospel of Christ. This person needs to know that we have all sinned, that we have all fallen short, that we all need a savior (John 1:12—13; Rom. 3:23–24). He or she needs your committed friendship—and your resoluteness to uphold your values out of love. This person needs a lifeline (namely, you) to the good news that a Savior has come because of humanity’s sin. You can offer godly counsel as the opportunity arises, but it is not your job to point out a nonbeliever’s specific sins. It is your job to love nonbelievers and share Christ with them (1 Pet. 3:15).
Redefining biblical doctrine to suit what we personally think is loving, gracious, or kind is wrong. Christians are called to love others. They are also called to kill sin in their lives and support fellow believers in godliness with all gentleness and compassion, not to give in to sin and pronounce it as good.
Lord God, You are love, and I who abide in love abide in You, and You in me. Your love has been poured out in my heart by Your Holy Spirit who was given to me. To me who believes, Jesus is precious. I love You because You first loved me. The love of Christ constrains me, because I judge thus: that if One died for me, then I died; and He died for me, that I who live should live no longer for myself, but for Him who died for me and rose again.
I myself am taught by You, Lord God, to love others and Jesus commands me to love others as You have loved me. Above all things I am to have fervent love for others, for love will cover a multitude of sins. May I walk in love, as Christ also has loved me and given Himself for me, an offering and a sacrifice to You, Lord God, for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Lord God, enable me to love people the way You love—selflessly, sacrificially, and even when I’m not loved in return.
Galatians 5:22; 1 John 4:16; Romans 5:5; 1 Peter 2:7; 1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14–15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; John 15:12; 1 Peter 4:8; Ephesians 5:2
For by one offering, he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.—Hebrews 10:14.
I hope, my soul, thou hast still upon thee the sweet savour of His name, whom in the morning portion thou didst contemplate as wonderful. And if so, here is another view of Jesus presented to thine evening meditation, to keep alive the blessed fragrancy, and under the Spirit’s influence, to preserve both, not only through the night, but to the morning, and every night, and every morning that follows, until the night of death be passed, and that everlasting morning break in upon thee, in which thy sun shall no more go down, but Jesus himself be thine everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Look, my soul, this evening, at thy Jesus, as this sweet scripture sets him forth, and behold him in his high priestly office, at once the sacrifice, the sacrificer, and the altar, on which he hath offered up that one offering, by which he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. And mark both the preciousness of thy Jesus, and the preciousness of his work. It is but one offering, and that one but once offered. For, from its eternal value and efficacy, an everlasting perfection is given to all them that are sanctified, and set apart for himself. “For Christ (as the apostle in his delightful manner expresseth it) being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” (Rom. 6:9, 10.) And what abundant precious things are contained in this view of the one offering of the Lord Jesus, which the Holy Ghost is continually holding forth to the Church! It is blessed to behold them, blessed to believe them, and doubly blessed to be living in the constant enjoyment of them. So vast and comprehensive is this one offering of Jesus, that it hath not merely procured the hopes of pardon, but the certainty of it; not only brought poor sinners into a capability of being saved, but absolutely saved them; and not only saved them, but qualified them for happiness; yea, hath perfected, and that for ever, them that are sanctified. And who are they? Surely all are sanctified who were set apart from everlasting, in the counsel of peace, between the persons of the Godhead, and given unto the Son, in an everlasting covenant, that cannot be broken; for to this purport are those blessed words of Jesus himself, in his prayer to his Father (John 17:2), “That I should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given me.” And, my soul, take one observation more from this sweet scripture: this perfection, given to his people, by his one offering, is for ever: he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. So that the blessing runs through all eternity. The efficacy of Jesus’s blood and righteousness is eternally the same. In point of merit, it flows as fresh, and pure, and sovereign, in its pleadings now, as ever. Hallelujah! Fold up, my soul, this blessed verse in thy bosom, and carry it about with thee in thine heart. Let it be among the first and last of thy thoughts when thou liest down and when thou risest up. Jesus will own it, and prove it to the full, when thou bringest it before his throne.
14 This point is stressed by Jesus’ reversal of the order in which he uses the titles here: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” The goal of a servant is to become like his master. The priorities and practices of the greater must of necessity become those of the lesser. Since the Lord of the disciples had washed their feet, it was incumbent on them to extend the same humble service to one another. Jesus had set an example so that they would do as he had done for them.
13:14 Footwashing continues as a regular ceremony in a number of modern denominations, which literally obey Jesus’ command, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Others believe the language is figurative for the importance of serving one another, and that the act itself is not required.
 Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 549). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.