Sunday, July 5, 2015


Words of apology and grace from a 20 year old woman. 
May they be read with a willingness to comprehend.

   America, in light of the SCOTUS ruling yesterday legalizing gay marriage, I wrote you a letter.
   Before I begin, I want to share a little bit about myself so you know exactly who it is writing this letter. My name is Kaitlin. I am a 20 year old college grad with a degree in Business. I am a social entrepreneur. I am a fighter for ethical clothing. I am a braker for birds, thrift store aficionado, travel junkie, and outdoor enthusiast. I am a twin. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a people lover. But even that doesn’t tell you much about me.
   My core, my very identity is this: I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am the daughter of the King of kings, Lord of the nations, Creator of the earth and Lover of souls. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God’s hands and I am precious in His eyes. In Him I’m made perfect and complete, and through Him I am a vessel of mercy and grace. In Him I find purpose, love, guidance and peace. I have laid down my life at the feet of Jesus and surrendered all I am for all of Him. I am His. His servant, His slave, His daughter, His beloved. Any good thing in me comes from Him.
   Lastly, before I get started I would like to clearly explain my view on homosexuality so there is no confusion and you aren’t left to wonder. But promise me this, if you have read this far, don’t stop now. Don’t stop if my view differs from yours. Just hear me out.
   I believe that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-28, Mark 10:6-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:17-20). As I already stated earlier, I believe in the Bible, and I believe it in it’s entirety. There are many things the Bible does not take a clear stance on, but homosexuality is not one of them. One cannot read the Bible and yet walk away thinking it supports gay marriage. I will not argue with or try to persuade you into believing the same thing. That is not the purpose of this post. (However, if you do have questions or would like to have a pleasant, civil conversation regarding this topic, feel free to get in touch — I’ll even buy the coffee!)

So now that you know exactly who is writing this letter and what I believe, let me get started…

Dear LGBT community,

   I am so sorry. After scrolling through social media feeds and talking to different people, I am completely and totally heartbroken, I sit here having shed plenty of tears. But not for the reason you might think. I am heartbroken because I cannot get on Facebook or Twitter without reading posts by self-identifying Christians initiating gross arguments with your community or disgustingly apathetic posts regarding how “we win” in the end. I am so disappointed. These reactions are not Christ-like and they are a very, very poor representation of what it is we believe. I am begging God that you do not judge Christ and His church based on the way some “Christians” have so badly handled this situation.
   They have forgotten that they, we, are sinners too. Our nature is wicked disobedience. On our own we followed the ways of this world, worshipping the ruler of the kingdom of the air. We gratified the nature of our flesh, following its desires and thoughts, and were deserving of wrath. But God, being so rich in grace and mercy, when we were dead in our sins and could not help ourselves, made us alive in Christ Jesus. It is by grace we have been saved. (Ephesians 2). Clearly they have forgotten their own depravity, as one cannot understand Christ’s grace and mercy and still respond to sin with judgement and condemnation. I am sorry.
   So many of them are up in arms and even surprised because the Supreme Court’s decision does not align with the Bible. They argue that homosexual marriage should not have been legalized because it does not agree with God’s purpose for marriage. In doing so, they are arguing for a Christian state and a Christian country. Dare I suggest that that does not align with the Bible? Jesus did not come to establish a Christian state. As Jesus says in John 18:36, ““My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus never planned to establish an earthly, Christian Kingdom on this earth. He did not care for a christian state, but for the state of our souls. Yet they have become so wrapped up in having a Christian country that they have forsaken your souls in showing hate and condemnation to you. I am so sorry.
   They argue against homosexual marriage on the grounds that it does not honor God, but they completely ignore the fact that for years, many heterosexual marriages have not honored Him either. In the last 30 years, the divorce rate has been the highest ever, with the peak reaching half of all marriages ending in divorce. Heterosexual marriages are filled with adultery and pornography, with husband and wife cohabiting a space but rarely ever acknowledging each other’s presence. I am sorry that rather than addressing the issue as a whole, they address only homosexual marriages. I’m sorry that Christians as a whole have done a poor job of modeling godly marriages, or that if they have one, they do a poor job of inviting others to be a part of their lives, to witness their God-honoring marriage. We have become so complacent with living our christian lives, in christian communities, with christian friends and have completely shut out the outside world. Jesus came not for the healthy but the sick (Mark 2:17). He spent his time not with the religious but the sinners. I am sorry that we have become content with attending church or church related activities 4 and 5 times a week, and don’t even know the names of our neighbors. I am sorry we do not spend time with the sick.
   Lastly, I’m sorry for all the posts you read regarding how “we win in the end.” I am disgusted by the apathy. Yes, Jesus will return one day and sin will be defeated once and for all. Yes, there is a battle against Good and Evil, and yes, Jesus has already won that battle, but that should not be their response. I’ve read posts where people are begging Jesus to come quickly, so that once and for all, sin no longer reins and it is no longer celebrated. I am begging Jesus to wait. If He returns this afternoon I will fall on my face in adoration, and I don’t dare wish to tell Him the right and proper time that He should return. But I beg him to have mercy and compassion and to wait. There are millions of people that do not know the love of our Father, that have not surrendered their lives to Him, and if Jesus returned today all of those people would be separated from God for eternity. I want each and every one of you standing beside me in Heaven worshipping our Good Father. Therefore, I beg Jesus to wait. I am so sorry that their response is otherwise.
   Homosexual America, please forgive us. Forgive us for the bigotry and hatred we have shown, for the many instances that we have failed to display Christ. I love you. Oh how I love. I do not agree with your lifestyle, but I love you nonetheless. That’s the beauty of the gospel…even when Christ did not agree with my sinful lifestyle, He loved me anyway and died for me.
   I am praying that as Christians, we would allow Christ’s love, grace, mercy and compassion to flow through us and into your lives. That through our response to this issue, and every other issue out there, you would see Jesus. As you have already discovered, we will fail. When we do, I’m praying we have the humility to admit that we were wrong, to apologize and to seek reconciliation.
   I believe that love from your partner will never satisfy the love you are looking for, just like love from a man will never satisfy the love my heart craves. Only Jesus does that. But I pray that my life, more than my mouth, will gloriously display that beautiful truth to you and all I come into contact with. And if you don’t know me, I’m asking the Lord to put someone in your life to display that truth to you.
   I love you, regardless of whether or not I know you. And there is always room at my dinner table for you, regardless of who you’re married to (Mark 2:13-17).

In Christ,


The following series of questions by Kevin DeYoung are not meant to be mean-spirited or snarky, but are meant to provoke thought and introspection on the part of Bible-believing followers of Christ on all sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

For evangelicals who lament last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, it’s been a hard few days. We aren’t asking for emotional pity, nor do I suspect many people are eager to give us any. Our pain is not sacred. Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Nevertheless, it still hurts.
There are many reasons for our lamentation, from fear that religious liberties will be taken away to worries about social ostracism and cultural marginalization. But of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty “Amen” to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God’s sign (Gen. 9:8-17).
If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
18. How would you define marriage?
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
24. If not, why not?
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
Food for thought, I hope. At the very least, something to chew on before swallowing everything the world and Facebook put on our plate.

Saturday, May 30, 2015



Galatians 3:11-14

I am convinced, along with a growing number of Christian theologians and pastors that the most unhelpful thing you can say to the average person living in the U.S. is “God loves you.” D.A. Carson, in his little book, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” says this, “…the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized and above all sentimentalized… In (past) generations when everyone believed in the justice of God, people sometimes found it difficult to believe in the love of God. The preaching of the love of God came as wonderful good news. Nowadays if you tell people that God loves them, they are unlikely to be surprised. Of course God loves me; he’s like that, isn’t he? Besides why shouldn’t he love me? I’m kind of cute, or at least as nice as the next person. I’m okay, you’re okay, and God loves you and me.”

John Stott says in his book, “The Cross of Christ,” “The kind of God who appeals to most people today would be easygoing in his tolerance of our offences. He would be gentle, kind, accommodating, and would have no violent reactions. Unhappily, even in the church we seem to have lost the vision of the majesty of God. There is much shallowness and levity among us. Prophets and psalmists would probably say of us that ‘there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ In public worship our habit is to slouch or squat; we do not kneel nowadays, let alone prostrate ourselves in humility before God. It is more characteristic of us to clap our hands with joy than to blush with shame or tears. We saunter up to God to claim his patronage and friendship; it does not occur to us that he might send us away… It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God, which Christ has won for us only after we have first seen God’s inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry ‘Hallelujah’ with authenticity only after we have first cried ‘Woe is me, for I am lost.’ In Dale’s words, ‘it is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath, that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.’… (And as Emil Brunner says,) ‘only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy.’”

In our passage today the apostle Paul is dealing with this difficulty: humans cannot fathom the mercy of God because they do not and cannot comprehend how offensive they are to God. There is probably not a clearer or more powerful statement of the love of God shown in Christ than in v. 13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” However, the power of that assertion is completely lost upon those who do not view themselves as being under God’s curse. If you believe that God loves you just as you are or that you have the ability to make yourself lovable, then the news that Christ became a curse for you is not good news. It is incomprehensible news. It is offensive news. It is irrelevant news. The presupposition of this passage is that every human being in their natural state is not loved by God but cursed by God. It is only those who know they are cursed who will trust in Christ. Paul’s point is that everyone outside of Christ is under God’s curse while all those who are in Christ are under his blessing.

Only by faith in Christ can God’s curse be turned into God’s blessing because…

I. The law condemns everyone who does not obey it perfectly (v. 10) 
Verse 10 begins with a “for” which the NIV does not include, unfortunately. Thus v. 10 is a reason for why v. 9 is true. Verse 9 says that all those who have faith in Christ are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Why is it that the blessing is given to those who trust Christ? Paul answers here because everyone who is seeking to be made right with God by obeying the law is under God’s curse. Here again he sets in contrast faith in Christ with obeying the law. The reason that the blessing is given to those who have faith and not to those who obey the law is because all who obey the law are under God’s curse. In the second half of the verse he gives the reason that is true but first we need to consider what it means to be under God’s curse. To be under God’s curse is the exact opposite of being under his blessing. Everyone is either the object of God’s blessing or of his cursing. You cannot be both cursed by God and blessed by God. So, what does it mean that God curses a person?

We can begin by thinking about when we place others under our curse. When do we curse others? We declare others to be cursed or invoke a curse against someone when they have offended us, when they have in some way unjustly, in our view, disrespected us or harmed us. We have many different kinds of expletives to pronounce our curses upon others. In addition, some people resort to occult practices like voodoo or magical incantations to invoke curses upon others. Whatever words we may use the intent is always the same. We are declaring that another person deserves to suffer, to be punished for the injustice they have brought to us or those we love. If you will listen to our curses we usually declare that those who offend us deserve to experience eternal suffering for what they have done. I’m not saying it is right for us to curse others. In fact, the Bible is quite clear that it is a sin to curse others (Job 31:29-30, James 3:7-12). Only God has the right to pronounce a curse upon humans because only God is perfectly just and never curses anyone out of petty peevishness. God’s curse is the just condemnation that lawbreakers deserve for their unjust behaviors. He alone is the righteous judge and knows both the motives and the acts of every human being.

“Cursed” is the OT word that summarizes God’s settled anger against the wicked, those who disobey his laws. In Genesis 2 Adam is told that if he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would surely die. Then in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve disobey by eating the fruit, God pronounces his curse, his judicial sentence, upon the serpent, the woman and the man as the just retribution towards them for their sin, their despising him and his word. The curse of God is ultimately expressed in their being shut out of the Garden of Eden. They are shut out of the blessing of God and thus become subject to death. The curse of God is his justice against the disobedient that ultimately is expressed in that eternal punishment in hell, in the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the wicked will be shut out from his presence forever.

Paul says that everyone who is obeying the law in order to gain God’s favor is subject to God’s eternal curse. The reason he says this is true is because of what Moses says in Deut. 27:26. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything that is written in the book of the law.” Why is it that obeying the law automatically puts you under God’s curse? It is because the law requires not partial obedience but complete and continuous obedience. Any failure to obey the law immediately subjects you to God’s curse. Every act of disobedience calls forth God’s just fury against you. Therefore everyone who is seeking to be made right before God by obeying the law is under God’s curse because no one is perfectly keeping God’s law.

Paul emphasizes the universality of God’s curse because there is no one who is perfectly keeping God’s law. All men, both Jew and Gentile are obligated to keep God’s law because there is one God and one law to which all humans must render obedience. If those who are trying to keep the law, the Jews, are under God’s curse because of their failure to keep all of it all the time, then how much more are the Gentiles, who make no attempt to keep God’s law under God’s curse? All human beings are under God’s curse due to our failure to obey God and so those who are seeking to gain God’s blessing by keeping the law merely expose themselves to God’s curse because they do not keep all the law all the time. God doesn’t grade on a curve. He isn’t going to bless those who obeyed 75% of his law. He is like the police officer who gives a ticket for speeding in spite of the fact that you inform him that you obey the speed limit most of the time or because you meant to obey it but accidentally went too fast because you were talking on the cell phone. Neither the police nor God is impressed with good intentions. He does not respond to people who admire his law but who do not keep it. He is determined to punish forever everyone who does not do everything that is written in the book of the law all the time.

How I want you and I to be terrified by that prospect. How I want us to feel our hopeless and helpless condition, in ourselves. There is no action we can take, no decision we can make, no prayer that we can pray, no act of courage or love that we can perform that can get us out from under God’s curse. Over the years I have had opportunity to know young men who have committed criminal acts and been caught, tried, found guilty and sentenced. Many of them, even though they are out of prison and have not committed additional crimes yet cannot escape the curse of their previous crimes. They are on probation or have fines to pay associated with their previous criminal acts. Their present law keeping does not get them out of the curse of their previous law breaking. Our condition as humans is even worse than these young men because we are not under God’s curse for only a few crimes we have committed in the past but we are daily breaking additional laws and thereby incurring more of God’s just condemnation against us. If you are going to seek to escape God’s curse by keeping the law you will only place yourself more under his curse because every claim you make to have obeyed the law is contradicted by innumerable infractions against the law.

Proverbs 3:33 says, “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked...” Psalm 5:5 says, “The Lord hates all who do wrong.” In Ephesians 2:3 Paul says that everyone who is outside of Christ is an object of God’s wrath, not of his love. Listen, if you think that God loves you because of who you are or what you have done, you are completely mistaken and deceived. If you are approaching God apart from Christ or on the basis of your own goodness, he hates you. For all humans in their natural state God is as angry with you as you are with the driver that cut you off in traffic and whom you cursed. You are under his curse and you will remain cursed forever, suffering the just condemnation of an eternal hell. However, there is a way out, but it is not based upon you and your work as Paul continues to make plain.
Only by faith in Christ can God’s curse be turned into God’s blessing because… 
  • The law condemns everyone who does not do it perfectly 
  • And because… 
II. Either you are working for God or he is working for you (vv. 11-12) 
In vv. 11-12 Paul sets two OT verses in contrast to one another. He is seeking to show with these two verses why what he has said in vv. 9 & 10 is true. God’s blessing rests on those who like Abraham trust him and his promises but his curse rests upon those who are seeking to obey the law. In v. 11 he says it is absolutely as clear as day that no one is being justified before God by means of the law because in Habakkuk 2:4 God says, “The righteous will live by faith.” How does that statement in Habakkuk prove that no one is being declared not guilty but perfectly righteous by means of obeying the law?

First, let me help you to see the logic of the statement by giving you an expanded translation of the quote from the prophet Habakkuk. “The man who is declared righteous in God’s sight by his faith in God’s promise, he is the one who will live forever.” In this verse the blessing of God is described as having life. Only the righteous will inherit God’s blessing. Only the righteous will be given life. So this verse from Habakkuk says the same thing that Genesis 15:6 says, the only righteous people are those who are declared righteous by their faith in God’s promise. You are not made righteous by keeping the law but by trusting in God’s promise, just as the prophet Habakkuk says. What is very interesting is the context of this verse in Habakkuk. At the beginning of this short book the prophet complains to God that Israel is full of wickedness and injustice and God is doing nothing about it. God is permitting injustice to flourish and wicked people to get away with their wickedness. God answers his prophet and tells him that he is doing something about it. He tells him that he is sending the Babylonians to come to Jerusalem to wipe it out because of all the evil the people of Israel have done. When Habakkuk hears God’s answer he protests. He informs God that the Babylonians are idol-worshipping pagans who are worse than the Israelites. How in the world can he use such evil people to punish Israel? Literally he says, “Why are you silent while the wicked (the Babylonians) swallow up those more righteous than themselves (the Israelites)?”

God’s answer to his question is simply this. God is not going to let anyone get away with anything. Wicked people, whether Jew or Gentile will be punished for their wickedness. In short, he says that everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is under his curse. He is judging all the nations and every human who does wrong. It is in the midst of his declaring his universal judgment on universal human sin that he says, “the righteous will live by faith.” Do you see what he is saying? “The only people who will escape this universal destruction, the only ones who will live through this judgment are those who are declared righteous through their faith in my promise.” Those who depend upon God to make them righteous will live, will not be destroyed in the universal cataclysm that is coming on all sinners, Jew and Gentile alike.

Next, in v. 12, Paul says that the law is not of faith. If people are made righteous by faith in his promise and thus they live and the law is not of faith, then the law cannot make you righteous. He then quotes a verse from Leviticus 19 to show how the law is not of faith. “The one who does these things will live by them.” The law promises life to the one who obeys the law. Therefore, the law is all about human effort. It is about humans doing something for God, not humans receiving something from God. The law promises life to those who do what the law says, not to those who trust the promise of God. The reason that law keeping is offensive to God is because when you keep the law as the ground of acceptance with God you are treating God as if he needs something from you. You are the strong one, not God. It is your strength that saves you, not God’s strength. Law-keeping places you in a relationship of superiority to God. There is something that God wants and I have the ability to give him what he wants. Therefore, law-keeping exalts human beings, not God.

God makes this explicit in a very famous verse, Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul says, “It is by grace that you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.” The reason that God saves us by faith in his gracious promise and not by our keeping his law is so that he gets the credit for our salvation, not us. God doesn’t need us. We need him. God is out to show off his strength, not our strength. Therefore, he rejects law keeping as the means of salvation because it is all about human effort whereas those who are made righteous by faith in his promise do nothing but receive what God promises to give. There is a sense in which the law is based on faith. However, it is based upon faith in yourself, not faith in God and his promises. Those who rely on law keeping to be made right with God are relying upon, trusting in themselves. If you are made righteous by your obedience then you get the glory, not God. And, as God says in Isaiah 43, he will not give his glory to another. Thus justification, being declared not guilty but perfectly righteous, does not come by doing the law but by trusting the promise.
Only by faith in Christ can God’s curse be turned into God’s blessing because… 
  • The law condemns everyone who does not do it perfectly 
  • Either you are working for God or he is working for you 
  • And because… 
III. Christ became a curse to gain the blessing for all who believe (vv. 13-14) 
What Paul is doing in v. 13 is describing for us the object of our faith, Christ. He is answering the question, why is faith in Christ the grounds for our being made righteous and thus given life? There is, especially in our culture and within the broader evangelical church an effort to make our faith the cause of our being made righteous. In the broader culture you hear it all the time when people make comments like, “She has such great faith. She certainly is going to heaven. God must really like her because she has such great faith.” In the broader culture, faith is treated as if it is a human accomplishment, a work that we do that God then rewards. Every time the angel on “Touched by an Angel” or “god,” on “Joan of Arcadia” tells someone they must “have faith,” they are treating faith as a work, as a meritorious act. Faith is powerful because of what it is, not because of what it receives. Most of you are not aware of this but there is a growing group of evangelical scholars who are doing something very similar to this. They are trying to say that when Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness,” that he doesn’t mean that God declared Abraham righteous because of what Christ did but he declared Abraham righteous because of what Abraham did, he believed. Abraham’s faithfulness is the grounds for his being counted righteous. It is his faith that has merit, not the object of his faith, Christ.

The error here can be easily seen in a simple illustration. This summer a group of us are going to get on an airplane and fly around the world to Mongolia. Our getting on the plane is evidence that we believe the promise the airline makes to us that if we will sit on this airplane we will end up in Mongolia. We are trusting the plane, the pilots, the mechanics and the airline that runs the plane to do what they have promised us, take us to Mongolia. Does my faith take me to Mongolia? No, the pilot, the plane, the mechanics, etc. all these are taking me there. My faith merely receives what they provide. The airline does what it promises and thus by faith in the airline I arrive in Mongolia. Let’s say I tell you that in order to save money I’ve asked Warren Sveum to build an airplane from scratch in the next three months and then fly me to Mongolia. I know that Warren is very good at building wagon wheels and he knows a lot about computers. I know that he can drive a car and is a responsible person. Therefore, I am absolutely confident that he will be able to fly me to Mongolia on his homemade aircraft. If I go through with this plan and trust Warren’s airplane and his flying ability, will I arrive safely in Mongolia? No I will not. I have the same faith in Warren and his plane that I have in United Airlines, why will my faith not get me to Mongolia? The reason is that my faith is not in a trustworthy object. Faith does not do anything; it merely receives what another has promised to do. Warren cannot perform what he promises. Faith in Warren Sveum is a vain faith, just like faith in my ability to keep the law or trusting that I am valuable and worth saving or trusting that my prayers to dead saints or ancestors is a vain faith. Your faith is only as good as the object in which you place it.

In v. 13 Paul shows us why Christ is the only one who will not disappointment our faith. He shows us why, when you trust in Christ you receive the blessing promised to Abraham, the Holy Spirit, as v. 14 says. When your faith is in Christ you will live, you will be justified, you will be blessed with Abraham, you will receive the promise of the Spirit because “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” The reason we know that Paul is showing us that Christ is the object of our faith is because of the two “us’s” in v. 13 and the “Gentiles” and the “we” in v. 14. This goes all the way back to 2:16 where the “us” is identified as all those who have faith in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. So now Paul, for the first time spells out what it is that Christ has done that makes him the only fit object of our faith. Christ became a curse for everyone who believes in him.

All of us are by nature under the curse of the law because none of us has obeyed all the law all the time. Christ takes us out from under God’s curse by his becoming a curse on our behalf. What does that mean? Paul tells us that we can be absolutely sure that Christ was under God’s curse because God says in Deut. 21 that everyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. He tells us this because we know that Jesus never sinned. Jesus is the perfect Son of Man and the Son of God. He is the only person in the universe who does not deserve to be cursed by God because he always did what pleased his Father. He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. However, God says that everyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s just condemnation. Christ was hung on the tree, the cross and thus in this historical event we know that he is under God’s curse. How can the perfect Son of Man be under God’s curse when it is only those who do not do all the law all the time who are under God’s curse? Christ did all the law, all the time and so he should not be under God’s curse, so how was it he was hung on the cross? The obvious answer and I believe this is the light bulb that went on for Paul at his conversion on the Damascus road, is that Christ is being cursed not because of his own sins but because of the sins of all who trust in him. I think that the main reason Saul the Pharisee was so angry with Christians and so opposed to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah is because he died on a cross and Paul knew that “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Saul the Pharisee thought this way, “The Messiah, God’s anointed one, cannot be cursed by God and therefore, Jesus, who was hung on a tree, cannot be the Messiah.” However, when Christ was revealed to him as the Messiah he could not deny that God cursed the Messiah because Jesus hung on a tree. Therefore, the curse of God upon him must be due to his taking to himself our sins, not because of his sins. He became a curse on our behalf. He took our sins to himself in such a way that God had to curse him with the curse we deserve. 

Christ was wrapped up in our sins and thus became the object of God’s curse. Therefore, we are no longer under God’s curse because Christ has our sins and has experienced the curse that was due to us for our sins. When we believe the promise that Christ became sin for us then we receive the blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Holy Spirit. We depend upon what Christ has done, not upon what we have done. It is the only way to be free from the curse because Christ is the only perfect man who had no curse upon him and was thus able to take to himself our sins and thus become subject to the curse due us for our sins. God cannot say to the one who trusts in Christ, “damn you to hell,” because he placed your sins on Christ and damned him to hell for your sins. This is why Christ is everything to us because he became a curse for us. He bore God’s infinite displeasure with us by taking our sins to himself. Therefore, Christ is the only trustworthy object for your faith. If you trust in anyone or anything other than Christ to make you right with God, you remain under God’s curse. Only Christ has taken your sins to himself and thus become cursed by God by hanging on the cross. Therefore, only Christ can actually deliver you from God’s curse. He is able to do what he promises because he became a curse for everyone who trusts in him.

Just as much as I long for us to feel the horror of being under God’s curse, I long for us to feel the wonder of Christ becoming a curse for us. Every sin that you have ever committed or will ever commit deserves God’s curse. However, if you are trusting in Christ as the one who became a curse for you, then every sin you have committed or ever will commit has been placed upon Christ and he has born the curse you deserve for each one. When you sin as a Christian those sins are not counted to your shame but to Christ’s. He became a curse for you, if you are trusting in him, so that you can be blessed along with Abraham, so that you can receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Only by faith in Christ can God’s curse be turned into God’s blessing because… 
  • The law condemns everyone who does not do it perfectly 
  • Either you are working for God or he is working for you 
  • Christ became a curse to gain the blessing for all who believe 
© Copyright 2005 John Swanson.

Saturday, May 23, 2015



La salvación es solo por la fe en Jesucristo

Le salut est seulement par la foi en Jésus Christ

الخلاص فقط من خلال الإيمان بيسوع المسيح

 To be a Christian means to live in fellowship with God. God is a personal being and has made it possible for us to relate to him through Jesus Christ. This short message describes how to begin.
 Discovering how to live in a personal relationship with God is the most important and most exciting joy in life. If you have not made this discovery, let me share with you now how you can become a friend of God through Jesus Christ.
 There are four things you need to know and believe.
1. You were created to live in fellowship with God and to have a meaningful life.
At the beginning of time people lived in harmony with God. But when Adam and Eve sinned, humanity was separated from God. See Genesis 3.

2. You do not have a natural fellowship with God or a naturally meaningful life because of sin.
The Bible teaches that "everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence" See Romans 3:23. Sin has broken the relationship between God and people.

3. You can be restored to fellowship with God and have a meaningful life through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God's eternal Son. He came to earth and became a man because the Father sent him to reconcile people to Himself. Christ restores us to friendship with God by removing the sin which separates us from God and taking the punishment for our sins on Himself. Then Jesus gives us His perfect righteousness that we need to stand before God. The Bible teaches, "Christ died for sins once and for all.. .in order to lead you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). To be restored, you first need to repent of your sins. This means to agree that what God calls sin is wrong and turn away from these things and turn to God (This process will occur again and again in your walk with God). Then you need to trust and receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Receiving him as Savior means believing that he died to remove your sins. Receiving Him as Lord means acknowledging Him as the rightful director of your life. With your sins removed and your life under Christ's direction, you will be back in favor with God and you will begin to live a full and meaningful life. Jesus said, "I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness" (John 10:10).

4. You must continue to live in fellowship with God, in order to continue to live meaningfully. God wants us to live in a person-to-person relationship with Him. Jesus said "Remain united to Me, and I will remain united to you" (John 15:4). Fruitful Christian living depends on closeness to Christ. Jesus said, "Whoever remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without Me" (John 15:5). God promises the Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you, giving you strength to walk with Him daily.

You can have it by living in fellowship with God. God has told us these things so that we will experience true joy and happiness in our lives here on earth. If you understand these things and want to have this closeness with God, the first thing to do is to ask God for this.

There are no magic words in Christianity. You can't just say a few words and think that's all you have to do. This is about a heart change and your life will show your new heart's condition. But to voice your desire to God, the following is a suggested prayer:
"Dear God, You intended that I live in harmony with You but I am now separated from You because of my sin. I repent and confess my sin to You and ask that You take it away. I want to live in fellowship with You and to have fullness of joy. I believe that Jesus Christ died to remove my sins and to restore me to You. I accept the living Christ as the Lord and Director of my life. Thank You for hearing my prayer and giving me the gift of a joyful, eternal life. Help me now to live my life in a way that pleases You. In Jesus' name. Amen."

According to scripture, if you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a born-again child of God!

What to do as a Christian:
1. Talk to God daily in prayer.
2. Read the Bible regularly. The Gospel of Mark is a good place to begin.
3. Seek the friendship of other Christians in a church which teaches the Bible.
4. Share what it means to be a Christian with non-Christian friends

Please contact me if you need guidance or have questions. 


This scene in the New Testament has aroused a great debate: were Ananias and Sapphira actually born-again, saved believers in Jesus Christ? The bottom-line is that scripture does not tell us. It does not refer to them as "disciples" or "beloved" or any other description that it does for so many others indicating their spiritual status. And we need to remember that God's correction upon believers over their sin is corrective, not punitive. All His wrath was poured out upon Jesus Christ on the cross for a believer's sin. But that stated, here are five things that this scene can teach us:

"The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 lets us know that despite the explosion of growth in the early church, they had moments of weakness, even gross sin. I believe that their deaths serve as a warning to the Church today, and that God has a lot to teach us—if we are willing to hear:
1. In the church, there are two kinds of people, and it’s nearly impossible to distinguish them from the outside.
On the outside, Ananias and Sapphira look just like another church member named Barnabas (introduced in Acts 4). Barnabas had just sold his property and brought the money to the apostles, and to the casual observer, Ananias and Sapphira were doing the same thing.
But deep in their heart lingered a love of money and a desire for people’s praise. So they conspired together to present a portion of their money while passing it off as the entire amount. This is worlds apart from the attitude of Barnabas, but looks very similar.
We may be able to get away with this sort of duplicity for a while, but if someone looks closely, the lies are there, threatening to undo everything. And even if they don’t . . .
2. We cannot hide from God.
It may be difficult for us to distinguish between a truly repentant heart and a seasoned faker, but nothing is hidden from God. The Holy Spirit knows our thoughts as if they were being played through a loudspeaker or being displayed on a screen.
That is why despite fooling everyone else, Ananias and Sapphira were still found out. There are no locked doors or hidden closets for the Holy Spirit.
A day will come when every secret will be proclaimed from the housetops (Matt 10:27). Do we really believe this? Are we ready for it? Ananias and Sapphira had known this . . . but they forgot it. They became so consumed with the praise of others that they forgot the only One whose praise really matters.
I can’t see inside of your heart to discern whether you’re a Barnabas or an Ananias. But the secrets of your heart are not secrets to God. When you proclaim with your lips that “Jesus is Lord” and live as if his law doesn’t matter, don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that you’ve successfully tricked God.
3. The closer we are to grace, the greater the offense of sin.
Not everyone who lies gets struck down immediately for their sin. So why did Ananias and Sapphira? A couple of reasons:
First, their deaths—like much in Acts—serve as a sign. God takes something that is true in the kingdom of God and puts it on physical display. We see this most often through the healing miracles, but it is equally true of this judgment.
God doesn’t do this with everyone who lies to the Holy Spirit today. But that should not cover up the fact that this death is a picture of how God feels about it. It is a glimpse of the future judgment for all who share in the heart of Ananias and Sapphira.
Second, Ananias and Sapphira had seen the activity of the Holy Spirit so closely that the seriousness of the sin increased. Think of it like the temple: the closer you are to the holy place, the more significant is every blemish.
These people had seen the mercy of God firsthand. Ananias’ name, in fact, means, “God is merciful.” They had likely been witness to the death of Christ itself! And yet despite being recipients of such great grace, they spurned it for the praise of men. Do not take holy things lightly!
4. Fear is a part of worship.
Unsurprisingly, these dramatic deaths caused a great deal of fear (Acts 5:5, 11). But we may be shocked to see that even in light of this, “more and more people believed in the Lord” (Acts 5:14). Fear is an integral part of worship.
For those of us familiar with the idea of an infinitely loving God, this is a jarring realization. But God’s love only makes sense when we know the magnificence of his glory and the might of his power. That is why John Newton wrote, “Tis grace that taught my heart to fear.” As the fear of God increases, so does the sense of his love, because we understand more fully what we have been saved from.
My favorite definition of the fear of God is awe mixed with intimacy. We are invited into the closest possible relationship with God, but this intimacy must never overshadow the majesty of who God is.
5. Sin is a deadly serious matter to God.
If we’re honest, many of us find God’s actions here offensive—but that merely reveals our ignorance of our sin and God’s holiness. We shouldn’t ask the question, “Why did they die?” Instead we should wonder, “Why do we remain alive?” 
Yes, God is patient with us and slow to anger. But as R.C. Sproul says, we forget that God’s patience is designed to lead us to repentance, not to become bolder in our sin. If Jesus really went through the tormenting hell of the cross to redeem us, and we neglect that in pursuit of our sin, what will it be like to stand before God? “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)"  --J. D. Grear

Monday, May 18, 2015


DECREED WILL OF GOD: (God’s plan) God’s eternal, foreordained plan and purpose which will not change and cannot be thwarted. This includes our salvation.

PRECEPTIVE WILL OF GOD: (The Word) God’s will expressed in the form of principles or precepts given to men. His written word is the expression of His will. In this sense, many people are seeking God’s will when it’s already obvious. (You don’t have to pray about living with your boyfriend, God’s has spoken in Heb 13:4 and 1 Cor 6:9-20)

PREFERENTIAL WILL OF GOD: (God’s pleasure) What gives God pleasure and what does not. God loves to show mercy, but will execute judgement. God takes pleasure in the salvation of sinners, He mostly does not take pleasure in pouring out His eternal wrath on sinners.

PERMISSIVE WILL OF GOD: (God’s permission) This is what God permits/allows, even though it is sin. Example: Joseph’s brothers in Gen 50:20. God is in control, His purposes are being accomplished. His decreed will often allows or permits (His permissive will) men to violate His preferential will (what gives Him pleasure) and His prescriptive will (His Word). God’s permissive will is never outside His decreed will. God “permits” those things which will lead to the accomplishment of His decretive will.

DIRECTIVE WILL OF GOD: (God’s guidance) God’s personal guidance in our lives. It does not violate any of the “wills” above. There are times when God wants us at a certain place, doing a certain thing. Not as common as some would think.