Teach Them Well (Deut 6:4-7)

(The following is a sermon that I recently preached at Irvington Baptist Church and Westmoreland Baptist Church)

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“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”- Deuteronomy 6: 4-7

 

I have a confession to make, I love watching documentary movies.   It’s nerdy I know but I love them.  My wife and I have Netflix and it has a ton of them.  I like to watch documentaries on about anything: War, history, food, politics, dinosaurs, or grass growing. You can film someone putting up wall paper, get Morgan Freeman to narrate it and I will want to watch it. I’ve tried to show my wife a few but they often just put her to sleep.   Anyways, the other day I was on Netflix and came across this documentary called “Hitler’s Children.”   So I watched it.   It was one of the most powerful documentaries that I have ever seen.  It has occupied my thoughts for several weeks now.  Now you may know, Adolf Hitler did not actually have any children of his own.   He only got married a couple of days before his death; however, some of his closest companions did have families and children. This documentary focuses on five people who are the descendents of those Nazis. One such person is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of a concentration camp.   As I watched the documentary, I saw five people trying to come to grips with the legacy that their parents or grandparents left them, each of them  enslaved to an overwhelming guilt of being associated with those horrible Nazis.   They want to love their parents as any child would but yet are horrified at the things their parents did.   After watching this film, I was just overwhelmed with thoughts about how our lives affect those around us. And now as I stand here at the beginning of this sermon with you, I am reminded of the impact of that movie: “Your legacy matters.”  The things we do matter to the next generation, to our children and those around us.   Just as these Nazi’s left a legacy to their children that will haunt them their entire lives, we too leave a legacy behind.   With that in mind, I want to preach to you a message from God’s word regarding the type of legacy God would have us leave.

What verses or passages come to mind when you think of the great passages of the Bible? What bible stories stick out in your mind? You might think of John 3:16, The Great Commission, “Judge Not”, The Ten Commandments or even Genesis 1:1, “In the Beginning.”   We believe all of the Bible to be God-breathed and useful for correction and reproach but even in the church there are some passages that we know more than others.   I want us to look at one such passage in the Old Testament that for the nation of Israel and even for Jewish people today is the passage that would stick out in their minds.  The Jews call this passage in Deuteronomy the “Shema Israel”.   It gets that name because the first two words of these verses in Hebrew are ,you guessed it, “Shema Israel.”   For Jews, this passage is one that they remember from childhood. This is their version of John 3:16. This would be the first verses that they teach their children. Even today if you were to go to a synagogue on any given Sabbath you will hear this passage recited.   It is of extreme importance to them.   A Jewish boy or girl would be taught these verses and would read them every night in what is called the “Bedtime Shema.”   They would also be taught that these words should be the last on their lips as they die.   In 2006, Roi Klein a major in the IDF, said the Shema before jumping on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers. So as you can tell this passage is important.   In fact it is important not only for ethnic Jews but for us as well.   Jesus was once asked what the most important commandment of God is and he recited this passage.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

A little background information to this passage will be helpful as we dig in. You will remember how the Israelites had been enslaved to Egypt and how God had inflicted the plagues on Pharaoh  The Israelites led by Moses crossed the red sea on dry ground and were heading to the promise land.   They, however, refused to trust God and thus he swore that they would wander for 40 years in the desert.   So for 40 years, the Children of God wondered the desert instead of entering the promised land.   Moses who had led them faithfully for 40 years was nearing his death so in the book of Deuteronomy, He recounts to the Israelites who would be entering the Promised Land the Law that God had given them at Mount Sinai.     In Chapter 5, Moses tells how God had appeared to the Israelites in the dark clouds over Mount Sinai and had given them the Ten Commandments. Chapter 6  is the capstone or summary of all of the ten commandments and beginning of the exposition of the law to follow. With that in mind, we see four things from this passage.   1. Who God is  2. What God commands. 3.  What God fulfills 4. and How we respond.

The first thing mentioned here is “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”     Everything begins with originates from and gets validity at their source which is God.   Thus we begin looking at God.  God in this passage starts by identifying himself.   It is God who reveals himself to us. God is the one who defines who God is. And the very first thing He mentions is that He is Lord. This is something we have forgotten or lost in our current culture. We have sometimes rush so quickly to “Jesus is a Friend of Mine” that we forgot the Holiness, the otherness, the supreme-ness, the Kingship of God.

We must have a right understanding of God as he reveals himself to us before we can ever get to the awesome good news of the Gospel. And while the cross and Jesus’ death on it are the central part of the Gospel, we must first, however, have a right view of God before we ever get to the cross.   God is creator of everything.   The 2nd London Baptist Confession gives an excellent summary of how God reveals himself in the Bible.  It says :

“The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

 

God is Holy.   And He is Creator. And it is He and He alone who decides the purpose for our lives and the way that we should live. The creation never gets to say to the creator what its purpose will be. That comes from God. God’s holiness also explains how he is also unable to be around sin and imperfection.

2Samuel 7:22 says “Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”

C.S. Lewis wrote a series of books called Chronicles of Narnia. Some of you may have read them or seen the movies but in them, Aslan the creator is a lion.   This lion represents God in the world of Narnia. Recurring over and over again in the book is this phrase about Aslan: “ He is not a tame lion.”   We need to remind ourselves this about God: We have not and cannot tame Him either. All throughout the Old Testament we are given pictures of the awesome wonder and power of God.   Many times it is scary. In fact, King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that the beginning of knowledge is the Fear of God.  

We need to reclaim the fear of the Lord. When we come to worship God we are to have a reverence for God. We are entering the presence of the Holy God who created everything and who holds the power over life and death. I like how John Piper talks about Worship and how it fuels missions:  “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. “

Worship then is the ultimate reason we exist.   We should seek to present to God our very best. We should not come flippantly into worship as if this time is just the hour before lunch.
There is another documentary called “Grizzly Man.”   It was about a guy named Timothy Treadwell. He had a strange fascination with Grizzly Bears.  He went to Alaska each summer and lived in a tent right out in the wilderness next to the bears.   Over the course of several years, he began to name the bears.  He even would pet the bears and get on all fours and walk around with the bears.   As Timothy came to know and care for these bears, he forgot one important thing; they are bears.   He became too comfortable with them and lost track of the fact he was human and they were bears.   Things didn’t end well for Timothy because one summer both he and his girlfriend were killed by a grizzly bear.
We need now more than ever to remember that we are not humans and that God is God. And God burns with an infinite passion to declare and uphold the glory of His Name.   This passage begins with the declaration that God is Lord.

If I left you here, we would miss something for important.   The passage says the Lord “OUR” God.   While God is holy and perfect. He is personal. He is good and can be known.   He is not a grizzly bear that may lash out irrationally in the heat of the moment.   This untame God has created us for the purpose of knowing and enjoying Him forever. He created us for His glory.   The Westminster Catechism asks this question about man “What is the chief end of man?”   The answer given is this” To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That fact the Lord is Our God makes this possible.    God receiving glory and our enjoyment go hand in hand.   John Piper again says this famously, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” God is personal and we can know him.   He is not just some being out there in the nebula of space but is closer than any brother.

This verse also reveals to us that God alone is God.   God is one. 1Ch 17:20 says O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

In the New Testament 1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

There is only one God and He exists eternally in three persons, The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.   We sing his praise every week.  Sometimes we sing a song that says “Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.”     This Trinity God is the only God. As the first of the 10 commandments say we are to have no other God before Him.

Theology or the study or thinking about God is important and vital for us as Christians and for this church. Theology is not just left to your pastor. Each of you are theologians in some way or another.     In fact every person is a theologian in the sense that they have think about God. You will either have thoughts about God that either conform to what God says about himself or you will follow some other god.  Many people get caught up listening and following all kinds of different voices. There are plenty of people with nice personalities who may have charisma and speak words eloquently.   However none of those traits are worth a hill of beans if the person does not have a right understanding of God and his word.

This brings us to the second point.   God commands:   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Jesus was asked what was the most important command and he answered Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

 What is love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More.   You can’t turn on the radio without hearing a song about LOVE.   The Beatles sang “All We Need is Love.  Elvis couldn’t help falling love.   The Righteous Brothers lost that Lovin Feelin.  Stevie Wonder was a Part time Lover. In today’s world, Love is often nothing more than a song. In our culture it is definitely is only a feeling. And as all feelings go, Love can to.   Maybe when we think of love, we think of all butterflies in the stomach and knots in the throat we got in middle school.  We were all shook up.   But as Tina Turner sang “What’s Love got to do with it?”   So What is love? Like Foreigner sings “I wanna know what Love is”   We need to rethink Love.   It’s more than a radio jingle and more than roses and flowers.

One contemporary Christian song describes God’s love this way “ God’s loves like a Hurricane and I am the tree.”

But here we are commanded to love God.   We don’t often think of being commanded to love.   But here it is, a commandment to love.   Love then must be more than these feelings. It must be a conscious determination to make the object of your love more important than yourself.   We are to love God with our Hearts:

This is the seat of our emotions so feelings do play a part. And when we think of God and his holiness and what he has done for us it does move us to love him with our hearts. It is not however only a part of our heart that God wants.   He wants the entire thing. No looking back as Sodom with love in our hearts for the idols there like Lots wife. No this love takes our entire heart.

It takes our Heart and Soul.  But what does it mean to love with our soul. We might summarize loving God with our soul as Greg Simas does:

“We love the Lord with all our soul by living a life of faithfulness to all that the Lord has required of us. While loving the Lord with all our heart has to do with affection, loving the Lord with all our soul has to do with devotion. The soul literally is the part of us that defines who we are. The essence of the biblical definition for soul means life, personality, the inner self and our identity. It’s where we make our decisions and choices that ultimately decide our lifestyle and behavior. Think of the soul as the “core you”. To love the Lord with all your soul means to love Him in the way we live, in the choices we make and in the behavior and lifestyle we adopt.”

Next we are to love God with our  Mind:   I think this is most of the neglected parts of this commandment today. There are several components to intellectual love for God. 1. Dedicating our minds to knowing him. 2 Thinking clearly and truly about him so that we don’t have false ideas in our minds.

We can only love God with our minds if we use them.   We need to be in his word reading it daily.   There are many false teachers out in this world. Loving God with our mind means testing the teaching we hear and seeing if it truly is from God.   We can only do that if we know our Bibles.   Did you guys know that before you got here this morning that I got on a ladder and painted the word gullible on the ceiling.   How many of you looked up?   We can’t be gullible.   Not every person claiming to speak for God does.   There are preachers who will tell you what you want to hear and may say things that sound nice but they distort the scriptures for financial gain.   You can turn on the tv and see some of them with large smiles and big wallets ready to take you for a ride.   I don’t want to name names but they might rhyme with Foel Bosteen and Royce Fryers.   Stay away from them.   Open your Bible and turn them off.   Loving the Lord your God with your mind means engaging your brain.

And the final component of love is our strength.   Some translations put it as resources.   I think that is a fair translation. To love the Lord God with our strength is to love him with our resources. It is to love God with our time and the things that we have.

The biblical definition of love according to Voddie Baucham  is that love is an act of the will (it’s a choice) accompanied (not led) by emotion that leads to action (it’s proved by our efforts) on behalf of its object.

This is the great commandment. And it’s a commandment. Sometimes we treat God’s commands like great suggestions. We read a command in the Bible from God and think, “Alright God, I’ll take it under advisement.”   We hear sermons and then leave thinking that what we heard was optional.   God’s commandments are not optional. They require our obedience.   This commandment to love God with everything requires our obedience.

When this command was first given Mt. Sinai, Moses was on the way down the mountain with the great tablets of stone that God had written with his own finger and the Israelites were already worshipping a god made out of their own hands.  Again when Moses writes this down in Deuteronomy, the ink could not have even dried on the paper before the Israelites broke the commandment.  It’s like the bride stopping off on the way from the wedding to the reception for a fling with another lover.

There is more bad news as we read this commandment because the truth is that we disobey it. From birth, we want to be god.   Like our fore-parents Adam and Eve we reject God. One of my favorite rappers Shai Linne writes about our rebellion this way:

“So why do the nations rage and all of the peoples plot in vain?
Their sin and offense is against His excellence and they’re not ashamed
As though He’s lacking the power to shackle them now in the hottest flames
And so they cock and aim- the target? His cosmic reign
That’s like a kid with a super soaker trying to conquer Spain!
Man thinks he’s a pugilist, trying to ball up his puny fist
At the LORD, who is ruling this
What’s amusing is God just laughs, like “Who is this”?
Stupid kids who persist in foolishness
It’s only by God’s power you exist
Now you declare war on the LORD
When before you were born, He formed you in the uterus?”

The Bible says there is not one who loves God not one.  Yet, here we are stuck with a commandment we don’t obey and the punishment for this commandment is Hell.   We deserve God’s wrath and judgment.

God fulfills this commandment. But there was one who did complete this.  His name is Jesus.   It was the greatest commandment. He lived it, breathed it, and died with it on his mind. Jesus fulfilled this commandment because we couldn’t    He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous.   He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God.   The prophet Isaiah prophesied that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead.   Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.

Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”   We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus.   We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus.   We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because He rose from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. , Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation.  They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”      God then writes on the heart of the new creation his law.

While we were dead in our sins and rebellion to God there was no way for us to keep the Shema. We would not and could not obey this command because of the enslavement to sin.   Yet when we place our trust in Christ and repent of sins, this is a sign of the change in our heart that God has done.   And when God changes our heart in salvation, we can now return to this commandment with gladness.   It is no longer a burden but is something that the repentant heart, soul, mind, and strength will want to do.

We can keep this commandment because God made a way for us to do it. Maybe Elvis wasn’t too far off when he sang that he couldn’t help fall in love. When you have been saved by Christ, you can’t help but love God.   It will be imperfectly done in this lifetime but God will work in you to bring you to completion.

I want to ask you to examine yourself.   Can you see in your own life a desire to love God with all that you are? Do you see in yourself a desire to obey God’s commands? Do you still have places in your heart where you hold onto rebellion? Repent and turn to God.

 

Finally this passage ends with an example of the outworking of our response.   This example is one of the first ways we love God with everything we have.   This part of the passage has become my personal mission statement as a student minister and father.

 

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise

 

I want to encourage you that this command is part of the previous. Loving the Lord means you will teach your children and those around you to love him as well.   It is a way of life. Not something that can be done on Sunday and Wednesday Nights alone. It is not something that you can outsource to a youth pastor or a children’s church worker.   You as parents and church members are commanded to teach these things to those around you especially your children.   We see from this passage that it is to happen all day every day in everything we do.   When we sit around the house, when we go out for a drive, when we lay down at night and when we wake up in the morning, we are to be constantly teaching and speaking about the love and commandments of God.

I want to share with you some statistics:According to researchers, between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college.  That’s right, modern American Christianity has a failure rate somewhere around eight (almost nine) out of ten when it comes to raising children who continue in the faith.

Over the past several years a number of researchers have discovered that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers who still attend church and identify themselves as Christians have belief systems that mitigate their claims. Researcher George Barna, for example, discovered that 85 percent of “born again teens” do not believe in the existence of absolute truth.”

From the same study George Barna comes to this conclusion:

” Our research suggests that religious congregations are losing out to school and the media for the time and attention of youth. When it comes to the formation of the lives of youth, viewed sociologically, faith communities typically get a very small seat at the end of the table for a very limited period of time. The youth-formation table is dominated structurally by more powerful and vocal actors. Hence . . . most teens know details about television characters and pop stars, but many are quite vague about Moses and Jesus . . . Many parents also clearly prioritize homework and sports over church or youth group attendance.”

Youth are not leaving the church because the games are not cool enough.   Youth are not falling into the world because we didn’t serve the right pizza.   We are losing this generation because we have neglected to keep this commandment. We send our children to the enemy for 8 to 10 hours a day to be educated and don’t live out a life of God’s love before them the rest of the day and then take them to church on Sunday for 2 hours and expect that to be enough.

The Bible here and elsewhere gives Parents, not the student minister, not the church workers, not the nursery workers, not the schools but the Parents and in particular the fathers the responsibility to teach their children the commandments of God and to raise them to be followers of Christ.

Related research among church goers, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. . . . About two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. . . . The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive.

However, Parents are the primary teachers in their children’s lives, even if they don’t know it. Some parents are better teachers than others, but every parent is a teacher when it comes to the children with whom he or she shares a home. Parents are the primary disciple-makers, every ministry should exist to support but never to replace the parents’ role. A key objective for this entire church must be to equip and support parents in making their homes ministry centers for the spiritual growth of their children.

Voddie Baucham says “A family without a commitment to the God of the Bible has no hope of stemming the tide of cultural onslaught. If we mix a little biblical truth, a little secular psychology, a little romance novel ideology, and a little eastern mysticism, we will get a deadly mixture of lies. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many Christian families do. We do marriage according to Dr. Phil, raise our children according to Dr. Spock, govern our sex lives according to Dr. Ruth, and only run to Dr. Jesus when things have gotten so bad we can’t find another doctor to help us.”

You cannot read the bible without getting the vision from God that parents and families are important.   You will also see in our culture that families are under attack.  Fathers and husbands are called by God from the very beginning in Genesis through the Old Testament and right into the New Testament to be the servant leaders and biblical leaders in their home.  This fact has been under attack since the beginning.   Since the beginning men have abandoned this role.   When Eve ate the fruit and sinned, the bible makes it pretty clear that Adam was standing right there and did nothing about it. In fact , the bible places the responsibility of sin on Adam the man.   Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”   Men the bible holds you accountable for how your families turn out.   You have the spiritual responsibility and no one else.   I do not have time to go through all the verses and there are a ton of verse s about male headship to point this out but you can begin in Ephesians.

My point is this- fathers and men, you are called to lead your families and to love them like Jesus which is sacrificial with great gentleness and strength. Many men must move from merely bringing their families to church to embracing their God-ordained role as their families’ spiritual shepherd and mentor.

 

Women and mothers you are called to come along side your husband and to also be responsible in raising your children in the nurture of the Lord.   Look at proverbs 31 to get a picture of what a strong woman who willfully submits to the godly leadership of her husband while raising children that are pleasing to God looks like.We are to be teaching our children all day. It’s when you are at home, when you are on the road, when you walk by the way.

 

“What you do for God beyond your home will not typically be greater than what you practice with God within your home.” – G. Wishall.

Teaching your children happens every day and all day long. You teach with your words and actions.   What is important to you will be important to your children.

I want to give you one practical thing that my wife and I begun when Jasmine was born and has become the highlight of my day. Every night about an hour before bed, we get the girls ready for bed and sit down with them in the living room. I as a father read the Bible passage for the evening. We then sing songs with our girls. Some of them are silly children songs but others are hymns and worship songs.   We then pray together. This time is precious to me. It is refreshing and it is amazing to see Jasmine learn these songs.   I want to encourage you whether you have children or not, to start this practice with whoever is in your household

This may be a completely foreign concept to some of you. It may take some getting used to.  So many parents think they don’t have enough Bible knowledge to teach their children. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you can read, you can teach your children God’s Word. All you have to do is stay a step ahead of them. Don’t be afraid. God has given you everything you need to do this. You don’t have to be a seminary-trained theologian to read the Bible and talk about what it means. Besides, God would not have given you the responsibility unless He knew you could handle.

Regarding Family Worship, parents, you have the responsibility to carry this out. Fathers and men, again the bible places it squarely on your manly shoulders.   Don’t neglect to lead your family and this church family in worship. Do not let worship and music be the domain of woman only.   There are boys in this church that need you men to step up and be an example of Jesus.   Men should be some of the loudest singers and worshipers we have. Women and mothers, don’t let your husband’s neglect this responsibility.   And when they take responsibility follow them into worship of Jesus.   Girls and young women need adult women to lead them into loving the Lord.

Finally, The world’s limited view of life says that the most important thing we can teach our children to do is get good grades, go to a good college, get out of school, and get a good job so they can make more money than their mom and dad did.

“Being a member of an organized traveling baseball squad at age ten doesn’t add a single day to one’s life. In fact, many of these activities get in the way of much loftier pursuits. If I teach my son to keep his eye on the ball but fail to teach him to keep his eyes on Christ, I have failed as a father. We must refuse to allow trivial, temporal pursuits to interfere with the main thing. Making the team is a tremendous achievement; however, it must be put in its proper perspective. No sports endeavor will ever be as important as becoming a man or woman of God.” –  Voddie Baucham

It all comes down to a simple question: Why are we here? Does your family exist to prepare children for the NBA? If so, then basketball will be the center of our family’s universe, and everything will bow to the whims and wishes of the basketball god. Does your family exist to produce little pop culture icons? If so, then our family must revolve around the social calendars of our overloaded teenagers and their hectic schedules. However, if your family exists to love God then we can not allow anything to interfere with our commitment to family worship, prayer, and Bible study.

  

Today we have looked at who God is, what He commands, how he fulfills and how we are to respond. How will you respond?   Will you join me and making this passage one of your life’s goals?

Hitler’s Children: The Sins of the fathers

‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’                                                               –Numbers 14:18

 

HitlersChildren

I have always been interested in history and have read quite a lot on World War II.  For some reason other another, perhaps because the war happened years before my birth, I had never given much thought about any one who would be related to the Nazi leaders being alive today.  That was until the  other day when on netflix, I stumbled across a documentary entitled “Hitler’s Children.” The documentary focuses on five descendants of some of Hitler’s closest accomplices.  This film is emotionally gripping in so many ways.   As I watched it I could not help but be moved as these people struggled with the desire to love their parents or grandparents as is natural for anyone and the hatred of all that these same parents, grandparents, and uncles had done.   One such lady,Monika Hertwig,  tells about when a viewing of “Schindler’s List”  she came to the complete realization of the monstrosity of her father, Amon Goeth.  She had a panic attack while in the theater and felt like she was going to die if it got any worse.

While watching the film, I could not help but think about several themes from the Bible.    God’s Word has a way of dealing with the intense needs of our world.  There are two themes in particular that I want to pull out from the Bible that kept flooding into my mind as I watched this documentary

1.  The first theme I thought of was how we are all under the shame of our ancestors and share in this guilt.  In the beginning, when our first ancestors began a cosmic rebellion to their Creator’s authority and sovereignty by disobeying His command, they began a projection of guilt and sin that carries on to this day.  They believed a lie and this lie gave root and bore fruit in all the sin and shame that fills our world.   We are all born in this sin.   Psalm 51:5 states that we all come into the world as sinners: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  The horrors of the Nazi atrocities did not just begin in the 20th century but they were born all those years earlier in the garden when Adam and Eve decided that they knew better than God what was right and what was wrong.   The sins of our father Adam then are replayed and repaid through out all generations.   Alas that anyone would claim not fair that they should share in this guilt, Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned.”    It is not as if you or I had been the one in the garden we would have done in any better.   We would have then done the same thing.    We are guilty.   God is just, Numbers 14:18.     I think this is part of the reason we recoil so much at the Nazis.   We watch as a whole nation of people are sucked into an evil philosophy and wonder how they could have allowed themselves to become that way.  The truth is that if not for the grace and restraining power of God, our hearts in our natural state are capable of doing unspeakable horror.

2.  Watching this documentary, I also could not help but be reminded that while we are effected by the sin of others and we do have real guilt in our sin,  the good news is God has made a way to remove that shame and guilt.  We are not our parents.   We do not have to bare the shame of Adam.   We do not have to continue the path of destruction that came before us.    One particular scene in film that moved me was when the grandson of Rudolf Hoess traveled to the concentration camp where his grandfather had been commander.   While there you could see the pain on this grandson’s face and the shame he carried.   He was invited to speak to some young Jewish teenagers who were also taking a tour through the camp.  They were curious why he was there and some were bothered by his presence.   It was an elderly man, a Jewish survivor of the camp, who changed the entire scene.  He walked up to the grandson of the man who had tortured him and shook his hand.   This holocaust survivor looked him in the face and said to him, “You didn’t do it.  It was not you who did this.”    There was a certain relief that filled this descendent of the Nazi.   You could see in the weight lifted right off of him.     This scene from the documentary while emotional is a small picture of something more grand.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”                                      – Ezekial 18:19-20

What Ezekiel wrote in the above passage gives a sense of relief.  The guilt of our ancestors does not have to carry on with us.   The children do not have to remain in punishment for the sins of their fathers.  If only they will live in righteousness.    But that is the problem isn’t it.   The above passage only gives hope to those who live in righteousness.   But we know this, that we are not righteous.  It brings us no hope.    However there was one who did live righteously.   His name is Jesus.   He lived without sin.  He did not deserve death but instead should never have suffered.   However, for our sake, Jesus was made to be the unrighteous.   Jesus took upon himself the same shame, guilt, and sin that pervades our world.   He took it upon himself so that we may be forgiven.   “ For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22

Jesus did that for us and he calls us to repent of our sins and to put our complete trust in Him.   He did it out of love for the unlovable.   One day for those who have been saved, who repent and put their faith in Christ,  we will stand in front of the Father and when we think of the sin and shame that we deserve He will say to us,”You did not do it.”    He will say that because the sin we committed was placed on Jesus and in its place we carry the righteousness of Christ.   The cycle of guilt and shame has been broken.   The guilt of the fathers and sins of the sons of those saved by Christ are no more.

 

As I finished the film, I prayed for these five people that they may find the beauty of the gospel.

” For my father and my mother have forsaken me,but the Lord will take me in.” –  Psalm 27:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed Assurance

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What if a church member came up to you  and shared that they were doubting their salvation or were wanting to be assured that they were saved?  Other than scripture, one tool that I would use would be to walk through what the 2nd London Baptist Confession has to say about assurance. Using this tool, I would begin and end by pointing to the gospel as the only message that has the power to save and give assurance.

Following along the format of the 2nd London Baptist Confession which you can read in full here , I would first let this person know that assurance is a real and true thing. We can have assurance of our salvation and that it is a good thing to have. Article 1 on the chapter of assurance in the Confession states: “. . .yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”
Knowing this, I would then try to probe with questions to see if the person is able to articulate the gospel. Jesus is the one that saves and therefore we must place our complete trust in what He did on the cross, in his resurrection, and what He does in us. The gospel is the foundation of assurance. There can be no assurance where the person has not experienced the life changing power of the gospel.

Secondly, I would point out that there are basically three ways that God gives us assurance. The primary way is by staying focused on the object of our faith. This once again comes back to the Gospel. We do not save ourselves; salvation is the work of God. This means that we can be assured because God has promised salvation to those who have repented and put their trust in Jesus. The second means of assurance is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Bible says that “the Holy Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the Children of God.(Romans 8:16)” The Holy Spirit does this by convicting us of sin and moving us to good works. We also have the internal witness that our faith is truly in Christ. The third means is related to the second in that the Spirit moves us to bear fruit(Galatians 5:22-23). We should examine our lives and be able to see where we have been changed by Christ. Do we desire righteousness more than sin? Are we growing in maturity and in the love of Christ for the things that Christ loves? Our works do not save us but they are the result of salvation. If we do not see these fruits than that may be cause for concern.

Thirdly, I would point out that we may at times lose not our salvation but our assurance. Grievous sin in our life can cause the Spirit of assurance to leave us. Christians will not remain in sin but we can fall into it at times. Sin can cause our hearts to lose the assurance we once had. We should repent and turn from this sin(Psalm 51:12). Sometimes, however, God may withhold assurance to cause us to seek after Him. He does not do this out of spite but out of love so as to motivate us to thirst for Him. God however will never leave us completely alone. And with much diligence and searching, God rewards us with the object of our search, Himself.
Assurance then should be sought after and cherished. Jesus must be the focus of our faith. He is the one we trust in, not a prayer that we have prayed or a walk down an aisle. We can only have assurance of salvation if we have truly repented and placed our faith in Jesus.  Then we can be assured:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

 

How to become a Christian? The Gospel in Four Words

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The Gospel can be stated using four words: God, Man, Jesus, Response. Let me unpack each of those words briefly and you will understand the Gospel and how to become a Christian.

God: It all begins with God. The Bible in its first verse (Genesis 1:1) says that “In the beginning, God created. . .” God is the author of life and creator of everything we see. He is not only creator but owner of everything. Job 41:11b says” Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Because God is creator and owner, He determines the purpose of everything and everyone. God is also Holy and commands us to be Holy. Leviticus 19:2 God created us to be Holy and to live in relationship with Him. The word “Holy” has a lot of meaning but it essentially means that we are to be pure and free from evil. This leads us to the second of the four words.
Man: Mankind was created by God and thus are His. God revealed to Man how they should obey him. God’s commands can be summarized in two commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. People however since the creation have not obeyed. Beginning with Adam and Eve people have rejected God’s ownership and commands. The Bible says that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Sin is disobedience to God. Sin also separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Since God is the source of life and all that is good; separation from him leads to destruction and evil. The Bible says what we earn with our sin is death. (Romans 6:23). If you look around at the world or watch the news you can see the effects of sin everywhere. But the effects of sin don’t only affect our life in this world, Sin also will be judged by God. Just as everyone will die, they also will be judged after death. (Hebrews 9:27). Everyone has sinned and has lived in rebellion against God. This punishment is a terrifying thing because God is a just and holy God who cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. God however also loves, which leads us to the next of the four words.
Jesus: God loves us and thus wanted to make a way to both punish sin and forgive us. God decided to take the punishment sin upon himself in our place by sending His Son, Jesus to live and die on the cross (John 3:16, Romans 5:8) Jesus was born, God in the flesh. He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous. He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God. The prophet Isaiah prophesized that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead. Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.
Response: Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus. Becoming a Christian is not about trying to do more good things but is about trusting in what Jesus has already done in our place. We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus. We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because he did rise from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. One of Jesus’s followers, Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
How does one become a Christian? Admit that you are a sinner deserving of judgment. Believe in your heart in what Jesus did on the cross. Confess and make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you have responded to the Gospel today, send me a message and I would love to follow-up with you.

Love your gay neighbor!

Jesus called us to love God and to love our neighbor.  These are the summation of God’s commands for us.  Yet putting them to practice can be difficult.    This can be particularly tough because our neighbors are sinners often involved with sinful lifestyles.  How do we love our neighbor without condoning his sin?  How do we love a homosexual while at the same time standing strong on the biblical view against homosexuality?  These are tough questions that have been answered in a host of ways.   A recent article by Brandon Ambrosing  in the Atlanta, “Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Homophobe,”  contains some valuable insight.  The author is a gay man who argues that one can oppose gay marriage for religious or secular reasons and still not be a bigot.   He goes on to write:

To me, recognizing the distinction between opposing gay marriage and opposing gay people is a natural outgrowth of an internal distinction: When it comes to my identity, I take care not to reduce myself to my sexual orientation. Sure, it’s a huge part of who I am, but I see myself to be larger than my sexual expression: I contain my gayness; it doesn’t contain me. If it’s true that my gayness is not the most fundamental aspect of my identity as Brandon, then it seems to me that someone could ideologically disapprove of my sexual expression while simultaneously loving and affirming my larger identity.

I find this  quote to be particularly useful.   The old adage, “love the sinner-hate the sin” seems appropriate here.   Ambrosing is saying that homosexuals are more than the expression of their sexuality.  His conclusion is that someone may disapprove of his homosexuality and yet still love him.   Ambrosing probably doesn’t recognize it but his argument finds support in the Bible.

It may be helpful to break it down a little further to see what the Bible teaches on the doctrine of man.  The doctrine of man teaches that God is the creator of every person and that humans have a sinful nature because of the fall.  Understanding these two points will help us determine how we can be obedient to all of Christ’s commandments.

First,  we must understand that God is the creator of all humans.  Genesis 1:26-27  says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”   What does it mean to be be made in the image of God.   It does not mean that man is made to physically resemble God.  God is spirit and therefore man can not physically resemble God.   It also does not mean that men are gods.   Answers in Genesis(AIG) along with other Christian thinkers through time have thought of this image as a bestowing upon man some of the divine attributes.  Prof. J. Rendle-Short of AIG writes

The main impact of the image is that God endues man with some of his divine attributes, thereby separating and making him different from the beasts. What are these special Godlike qualities which man is permitted to share? I shall mention six: language, creativity, love, holiness, immortality and freedom.

Others have offered a different take on this.   They have postulated that the image of God means that man is to be God’s representative on earth.  Thus man is to be a reflective image of God for the world.   This places the emphasis on man’s responsibilities.    John Piper after surveying the different views comes to the most honest conclusion, that the text does not give a complete answer to the question.   Piper does offer this definition: The imago Dei is that in man which constitutes him as he-whom-God-loves.

Never the less, the most important thing for our discussion is that man is the creation of God described as the image of God.   This bestows a great amount of dignity upon human life.   Later in Genesis this is codified when God tells Noah “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.”   Murder is wrong because it destroys what God created in his own image.

God also bestows people with gifts and talents.   He does this to his good pleasure.   This concept is called  common grace.  Common Grace is what allows people of all races and genders to be able to accomplish a lot of good things.   It is often through the lives of non-believers that God works to bring about human flourishing.  In Genesis, the sinful descendents of Cain are the ones who are described inventing animal husbandry and music among other things. Gays, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists can and have contributed to many genuinely good things.     People have a unique value and dignity because they are creations of a loving and giving God.   Going back to the Atlantic article, this allows us to be able to love and affirm the larger identify of all people because they are created in God’s image.

The second thing that must also be  simultaneously understood is that humans are fallen sinful creatures.   We all are born with a sinful nature inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve.   This means that while non-believers may accomplish genuinely good things they operate from sinful motives and a sinful nature.  People do sinful things that are an affront to the image they were created to be.  Mankind is in rebellion against its Creator.  If it were not for God’s common grace then man would never be able to accomplish anything good.  The fact that mankind has not already destroyed itself is a testament to God’s goodness.  Because men have sinful natures they are in need of a new nature.  They are in need of savior who will take the punishment of their sin and give them a heart that will allow them to complete their purpose as the image of God.   The Bible teaches that everyone must repent of their sin and turn to God.

This full understanding of human nature will have a massive impact in how we love.   Without this understanding as a foundation and desire to follow the Bible, there is no way for someone to be able to accurately define what love is.   (This understanding of human nature will also have an impact on our view of government and economics which I have written on here and here)

Some Christians have been and may still be guilty of having an imbalanced view of mankind.   The danger lies in putting too much emphasis on either point.   When their view becomes out of balance the Christian will no longer be able to love  another person as God would have us to.   They will end up with something they may call love but is not love at all.

One problem that Christians have had is to put too much focus on the sinful nature of humans.  This has led many to have a very dim view of others.   It can lead to self-righteousness and a judgmental heart.  When we begin to see others as only sinners we will then begin to see them as enemies.  Other people begin to become nothing more than obstacles to overcome.     We then become in danger of finding nothing worth of love in others.   It is easy to see how this imbalance can lead to hate instead of love.

The other side of the coin leads to the same place.   When we neglect to realize that others are sinners in need of a savior we neglect to truly love them.  We begin to idolize others or worse we begin to celebrate their sin.   We can also take an approach that is blind to the harm that sin causes others.  We remain hands off and neglect to call others to repentance in Christ.   By staying quite, we can become complicit in not only allowing but encouraging others to continue to sin.  Sin is evil and will lead to the destruction of those we are called to love.   I can think of nothing more hateful then to stand by quietly while watching others destroy themselves.    This is often called love but it is nothing more than hatred.

A proper balance between the two important points will help us to love our neighbors.    Love will push us to speak out against the destructive power of sin while at the same time being able to truly find value in those same people.   We can as Brandon Ambrosing wrote be able to disapprove of homosexuality without being homophobes.   We can acknowledge where our unbelieving friends and acquaintances do good things and affirm their identity as a creation of God.   Acknowledging that we all made in the image of God, will allow us to truly love each other because we will by loving God’s creation be loving God.    By doing this we will be obedient to the two most important commandments.

The Color of Christmas

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Social Media erupted into a firestorm over a recent segment on Fox New’s in which on-air host Megyn Kelly declared that Santa Claus and Jesus were white.  Accusations of racism and ignorance flew from all corners of the web.  Kelly later released a statement saying that her remarks were meant in jest and had been blown out of proportion.   What was kind of lost in the hype was that Kelly’s statements came as a response to an article from Slate by Aisha Harris titled, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore.”  The main thesis of the article is that the common depiction of Santa Claus as a chubby old white man is unfair and makes kids of other races feel unwelcome.   Harris writes, “Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?”   This of course led to the Fox News segment in which Kelly proclaimed that Santa Claus is white.  She went even further and asserted that Jesus was white too.

What the whole controversy boils down to is nothing identity politics and racism.  Why does it matter what race Santa Claus is?   It matters because people have been told so long that they must identify with the color of their skin.   For Mr. Kringle not to be the same color as you is a tragedy.    It means that black children are not supposed to look up to and identify with white people .   It means that white people must have a Jesus who is blond hair and blue eyes.   The idea is that if your hero is not the same race as you then they can not really be your hero.  This is the message that is being sent.   It is why Black support for Barack Obama has remained close to 95% while anyone who criticizes him is a racist.   We are taught that we are nothing more than the color of our skin.  It is a far cry from MLK’s dream of content of character over appearance.

So what is the truth?  The truth is that St. Nicholas, the basis for the figure of Santa Claus, was a Greek Christian and bishop.  He was known for his faithfulness to Christian orthodoxy and was one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.   In one story, St.Nicholas was so fed up with those teaching heresy that he punched one them in the face.   Of course, he was also known to be fond of children and for giving gifts.   According to a recent survey of his skeletal remains, he was “of average height and slender-to-average build. He was 5 feet 5¾ inches tall.”   Over time the stories of St. Nicholas combined with Dutch and Germanic mythology to form the figure of Santa Claus.  This Santa Claus is a portly white bearded man in a red costume driving a sleigh powered by reindeer.  Therefore, while historically St. Nicholas was a Greek Christ-following heretic puncher,  our image of Santa Claus came to be dominated by the culture of Dutch, German, and England.  It is no wonder than that the depiction today of Santa Claus is a white man.

     What about Jesus?   The Discovery news website gives a quick glance at how our modern depiction of Jesus came about.   A faithful depiction of what Jesus actually looked like though is hard to nail down.  The Bible does not spend a lot of time answering the questions that our modern society may have.   It does not give a detailed account of Jesus appearance.   There are many reasons for this including the fact that Jesus’ purpose did not depend upon his appearance.  Jack Wellman in an article on Patheos does a pretty good job of describing what the bible has to say about Jesus appearance.

“Isaiah described Jesus as looking like an ordinary man and that there nothing special in His appearance that would make Him stand out.  Isaiah described Him in 53: 2b “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”  He wouldn’t fit in well with the prosperity preachers on TV.  He wouldn’t make a popular itinerant preacher today.  He wouldn’t be getting millions of hits on YouTube.  This is because Jesus was not especially handsome and there was “nothing special in His appearance that would make Him stand out” which matches with the many New Testament references of Him easily slipping through the crowds.  He was not desirous to look upon nor had no beauty (in the Jewish vernacular this means that He wasn’t handsome).  Jesus’ humanity made Him out to be no different looking than any other man of the day.  Otherwise, we really don’t know what Jesus looked like other than He was an ordinary looking man, that He was strong and extremely physically fit and that He was able to blend in with the crowds very easily. “

Jesus therefor would have looked like a typical Jewish man from Bethlehem.   This means that skin color wise he was  not white nor black.  He would have been dark-haired, brown-eyed with tan skin.    That said, the Bible does not focus on this aspect.

This brings us back around to the premise of the whole debate.  The truth is important.  What is not important is that we must have a Jesus who is the same color as us.   The Bible teaches that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile.   The color of our skin is ultimately unimportant.  Christians identity is not about our race.   There are, have been, and will be Godly men and women of all races.  Revelation 7:9 gives a beautiful picture of our future.  “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”   In heaven, there will be people of all races and colors.

This also means that we can celebrate people of all colors.  We can look up to great heroes in the past who were of different skin colors than ourselves.    Early in Christian history, North Africa played a vital role.  St. Augustine was one such African.  He played a crucial role not only in the history of the church but in the history of the west.  His contributions to European and American political and cultural thought are foundational.  White protestants can look to St. Augustine as a vital hero without having to think of him as a white man.  Black people can also look back at white men who helped led the charge against slavery and count them as heroes.

What does this mean for Santa Claus?  It means that children of all races can have fun and dream of Santa and his reindeer coming to visit them without worrying that he is depicted as a jolly white man.  There is nothing shameful about having a hero who is not the same race as you.
Which leads us to the final and most important fact.   People of all races can look to the historically factual and true Jesus as their savior even while he is not the same color as them.   Jesus does not need to be white to save white people.  He does not need to be black to save black people.  The truth is that a Jewish tan-skinned man is the savior for all people.   He is the ultimate hero for all races.

Beard Wars: 2 Samuel 10

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BEARD WARS: 2 SAMUEL 10

On May 1, 2013, relations between Bolivia and the United States took a sour turn. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Bolivian president Evo Morales was expelling from the country the U.S. Agency for International Development whom he accused of conspiring against his government. “’Surely to think that you can still manipulate us economically, politically — those times are past,” Morales said at May Day celebrations in La Paz, according to the Bolivian national news agency.”1 Those within the United States responded that the Bolivian people will be the ones hurt by removing this aid organization. Whatever the outcome, the lack of trust between the two governments will have to be overcome to return to better diplomatic relations. This news story is reminiscent of other recent events involving soured relations between countries. In 2009, North Korea ordered weapons inspectors to leave the country.2 This had the effect of ratcheting up war rhetoric and putting the Korean peninsula on high alert ever since. War was the result of Iraq’s expulsion of weapon’s inspectors in 2003.3

In each of the above cases, mistrust led to the expulsion of diplomatic teams, the erosion of diplomatic ties, and in the case of Iraq led to war. The Bible tells a similar story in 2 Samuel 10. In this chapter, the Ammonite King, Hunan listened to lies that caused him to spurn the good efforts of David which led to a war that would prove God’s provision over his people, Israel and be the beginning of King David’s fall into sin.

Chapter 10 of 2 Samuel is a transitional text. It ties the highs of God’s promise into the setting of the low’s of David’s fall. Bill T. Arnold says of chapters 9 and 10, “We have seen that Yahweh’s covenant with David in chapter 7 is the ideological mountain-top of 2 Samuel. Now with these chapters we come to the point at which the book begins its gradual descent into the valley.”4 Kenneth Chafin writes that,“the account of the Ammonites was incorporated into the story of the succession to David’s throne because it provides the setting for the story of David and Bathsheba.”5 While the story does provide the setting to David’s fall, it also provides the antithesis to the previous chapter in which David shows kindness to Saul’s descendent. “The present story serves as a significant foil to the previous episode. In both narratives, David is shown expressing compassion and generosity toward individuals from the region of Gilead whose royal forebears had recently died.”6 The chapter works then as a transition from the heights of David’s reign to the depth of his sin while showcasing the sovereign provision of God to protect his people and keep his covenant.

The chapter begins with the death of the Ammonite king Nahash. The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot by his incest with his younger daughter. The Israelites were commanded in Deuteronomy 2:19 to avoid conflict with them when the Israelites took the promised land. They lived east of the Dead Sea and Jordan. “From Jerusalem to Amman was a journey of about fifty miles.”7 They had been enemies of Israel’s king Saul and several commentators have speculated that Nahash may have shown David kindness when David was a fugitive wanted by Saul.8 Robert Bergen concludes that “Israel had previously defeated Nahash in battle and David had apparently maintained a peace treaty with the Ammonites that recognized Israel as the superior party.”9 After the death of Nahash, David sought to show kindness to the new Ammonite king and son of Nahash, Hanun. “The present chapter stands out in sharp contrast to the account in the preceding one of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. They are parallel in that each records David’s seeking to return a kindness to a son for the sake of the Father.”10

When the head of state dies, often those countries with close diplomatic ties will send delegates to give condolences and show concern. David did just that. There is no hint of malice or evil intentions in his sending of delegates. The response that the delegation receives is not what David would have expected. Hanun makes several mistakes in this passage but the first mistake is to listen to the lying advice of those around him. The Ammonite commanders or princes begin to put doubt in Hanun’s mind with carefully crafted questions. “The purpose of the two questions asked by the Ammonite leaders is to cause hostility and destroy confidence between David and Hanun.”11

George Buttrick points out the similarity between these questions in 2 Samuel 10:3 and the account of the serpent in Genesis. “Almost word for word with the bad counsel noted above was the lying witness of the serpent in the Garden of Eden concerning God’s attitude toward the covenant agreement with Adam and Eve regarding the forbidden fruit. . . How tragic the consequence of misapprehending God’s commitments!”12 It seems to be the ploy of Satan to convince people that what is good is actually evil. In the garden, Eve believes the lie that God really is trying to keep her from something good. She believes the lie that causes her to mistrust God’s command. This is the lie that Satan still uses today to convince people that what is right is wrong and that what is wrong is right. Hanun in this passage believes the lie and attributes evil to God’s servant, David. Chafin says that “it shows how war can be started over nothing more than an unfounded misunderstanding. What is true of nations applies equally to families and to churches.”13 This is more than a simple misunderstanding however because Hanun chose to believe a lie. This unfounded belief started the Ammonite war just as in Genesis when an unfounded belief started the conflict between man and God.

David had chosen to show kindness to Hanun just as David had chosen to show kindness to Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan in 2 Samuel 9. The response of Hanun could not be more different than Mephibosheth. Gordon Keddie points out that “this contrast is instructive in that it illustrates graphically both the way that God deals with men (i.e., he is slow to anger and rich in mercy) and the differing ways in which men respond to the Lord’s dealings (i.e., acceptance versus rejection).”14 God has chosen to show kindness to man but man often responds like Hanun to David’s kindness.

Far removed from the culture and time of David, Hanun’s next actions almost seem comical. He seizes David’s men, whom he had sent in good faith, and shaves off half of their beard and cuts their garments at the waist leaving them exposed. “Even if they seem on the face of things to be more like practical jokes, the reality is that in terms of of international relations they are tantamount to acts of war, because they deliberately set out both to humiliate another nation before the world and to violate its integrity in some way.”15 In Jewish and Middle Eastern history the actions of Hanun are far from comical. “Hanun’s treatment of the men would have desecrated the men’s bodies, their clothes, and their national mission. . .Except for the performance of certain religious rituals (Lev 14:9; Num 6:18; Ezek 5:1) or to express profound emotional distress (ezra 9:3), Israelite men always wore beards. To remove an Israelite male’s beard forcibly was to force him to violate the Torah (Lev 19:27) and to show contempt for him personally.”1617

When David heard about the humiliation his men suffered at the hands of Hanun, he certainly was angry. He made sure though to take care of his men by having them stay at Jericho until their beards regrew. He saved them the dishonor of returning home humiliated. God shows the same tender care towards his servants. Many of God’s witnesses will be mistreated by the world but God will uphold the honor of his servants. God will respond accordingly to protect his people.

In what is a “duh” moment, Hanun suddenly realizes that what he did made David angry. “The metaphor that they used had to do with odor and means that they realized that what they did ‘smelled.’ Yet rather than attempt to rectify their mistake and make peace, they hire soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zoba to help them face David.”18 This is Hanun’s second mistake. When he realized that David was upset and that the two peoples were on the brink of war, Hanun could have reached out to David. David was known for being a merciful person and perhaps Hanun could have avoided war. Yet, Hanun decided to add injury to insult by heading out to war.

Hanun turns to his neighbors for help. He hires soldiers and mercenaries from the Syrians. “Especially powerful is the kingdom of Zobah (also known as Aram-Zobah), which is the dominant political power of southern Syria during this time. Located to the extreme north of the Promised Land, Zobah probably extended from the northern Beqa Valley in what is modern Lebanon east of the Anti-Lebanon range to the north of Damascus.”19

David in turn sends his great general Joab to defend his kingdom from the Ammonites and their hired help. David did not go out with his army. This one little fact will lead to a great problem for David in the next chapter.  It is not completely clear from the text that this particular occasion is the exact one that caused David to fall but it certainly will set the precedent for the next chapter in which David will stay home from battle and fall into adultery and murder. Sometimes by avoiding the hard battles in life, one can put themselves onto the path of temptation. Avoiding the hard responsibilities of Kingship is the one thing that set David on the way of sin.

Even while David is at home, his best general is leading the battle and more importantly God is with is people. Joab first leads his men out to face the Ammonites at the front of the Ammonite city but this put him into a predicament. One half of the Ammonite/Aramean army had come up from behind Joab. Joab faced forces on both sides. “He did not panic in the face of the formidable odds, but strategically deployed his forces so as to allow for flexibility as the battle progressed.”20

Joab deploys half his forces towards the front and places his best soldiers in behind to fight the hired Arameans. If one side of the battle where to go badly, forces from the other side would turn and join in to help. Not only did Joab show himself to be a great strategist but Joab also showed himself to be a man of faith as well. In verse 12, Joab gives three commands to his soldiers. They are to be strong, fight bravely for their people and for the cities of God.21 “Joab’s third statement to the troops suggests that for him this battle was ultimately a religious conflict; it was a tangible expression of Israel’s commitment to the Lord.”22 Joab then puts full trust in God as he says “The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” Bill Arnold says that “effective servants in God’s kingdom will exhaust their resources and energies doing whatever they can, while acknowledging that the fruit of their labors is ultimately in God’s hands. Or as someone has said, saints pray as though the outcome depends solely on God and work as though it depends on them.”23

God is with his people as he always is. Joab and his men rout the hired thugs from Syria and the Ammonites seeing their help flee also retreat into their city. For whatever reason, Joab and his men did not press the advantage and lay siege the Ammonite city but instead returned home. Hanun still did not learn his lesson however but regroups for another battle. Again they bring in hired men to fight. This time David when he hears of these rumors of war, leads his army out across the Jordan to Helam. And once again God is with his people. David and his army kill Shobak the commander of the Aramean army. This brought fear into those hired by the Ammonites and they sought peace with David.

The chapter ends with the Arameans unwilling to help the Ammonites continue their war. “This meant that the consolidated Israelite tribes had subjugated the powerful Aramean states to the east and north, and secured control over the main trade routes that connected Egypt and Arabia with Syria and further afield.”24 Bergen points out that though this small chapter was begun by the evil acts of men it had the effect of bringing about some completion to God’s promise. “David’s apparently unsought victories against the Aramean coalition had the desirable effect of greatly expanding Israel’s influence over the territories north of Damascus, thus helping them fulfill the Torah promise first given to Abraham.”25

This seemingly strange incident brought about by mistrust had the effect of securing territory that was first promised to Abraham. It is here that the passage becomes a part of the larger story of the Old Testament. The books of Samuel “present a theological history of Israel, evaluating Israel’s past in light of the covenant relationship established in Deuteronomy.”26 God had begun a covenant as far back as in Genesis by promising Eve that one of her seeds would crush the serpent (Gen 3:15). God then reestablished that covenant through Noah and then through Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would become a mighty nation that would bless the entire world. God promised Abraham that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed (Gen 12:3). God’s promise to Abraham would be fulfilled first though the nation of Israel before finding their ultimate completion in Jesus. In 2 Samuel 10, God is true to his promise to curse those who curse Israel.

This chapter is also set inside the covenant promises to David. “The significance of these events must be seen in the context of the flow of redemptive history and not merely in terms of the fleeting political situation in a corner of the Near East 3,000 years ago.”27 In 2 Samuel 7, God pledges to David to make one of his sons reign forever as king. This covenant with David is a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant. Greg Nichols in his book on covenant theology writes concerning the Davidic covenant that “the principle partaker is King David, Gods righteous servant. As with the Noahic servant covenant his royal posterity participates as beneficiaries of this pledge. As with the covenant with his righteous servant Abraham, Christ is its ultimate heir and partaker.”28 This covenant with David is a promise to kingship forever. “God pledged permanent rule to David. He swore to him that his dynasty and kingdom would abide in perpetuity. . . His pledge concludes with David’s ultimate heir, the Christ, who will reign on his throne forever.”29

William Schneidewind says that this covenant pledge to David becomes one of the ruling thoughts and documents for the Israeli people. “The Promise to David was a constitutional text. That is, it was an idea and also a text through which Israel would define itself as a nation, as a people, and as a religion. In this respect, it functioned something like the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.”30 2 Samuel 10 and the Ammonite War sets itself within the context of the covenant. God had declared that he would be true to his people and even though enemies would rise against God’s people, God protected them.

Yet 2 Samuel 10 leads into 2 Samuel 11 and David’s fall. David who had been the recipient of the great promise would fall into sin. This in turn points to the need for a greater fulfillment of the covenant to David. Someone greater than David would have to come. As time would progress, the nation of Israel would fall into sin and fracture in two. The Northern kingdom of Israel would be defeated and eventually the Southern Kingdom of Judah would too fall into sin and be taken into exile. The temple would be destroyed and the earthly reign of David’s sons would end. “The destruction of these institutions precipitated something of a constitutional crisis during the Babylonian exile.”31 God however was faithful through this time. “He kept his promise in spite of sin. . . He kept the dynasty intact in spite of the sins and plots of evil men and women. Eventually the dynasty came an end when God judged Judah for their sin. This created a tension that he psalmist laments. . . This created expectation and hope. God’s people waited for the day when God would keep his pledge to David.”32 This waiting and hoping would reach its zenith at the beginning of the New Testament when God himself would break into human history and fulfill his covenant. “The New Testament identifies the Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth. It certifies his identity as the son and heir to David. It confirms God’s faithfulness to this pledge. It affirms its fulfillment in the coronation of Christ on the throne of David by his resurrection and session at God’s right hand.”33

Back in 2 Samuel 10, God is shown protecting his people, keeping his promises, and ultimately in spite of the attacks by Hanun and the eventual sin of David preparing the way for the ultimate fulfillment of his covenant promises in Jesus. “Israel’s defeat of Ammon and the Arameans indicates the Lord’s intention to preserve the honour of his name and the integrity of his people. He notes when his disciples are abused. And the same unjust persecution and affliction which achieves in the believer an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”34

2 Samuel is not a passage that receives much attention in sermons. The almost comedic strangeness of Hanun’s actions in humiliating David’s men will seem foreign to most. Yet the passage calls to the reader to respond. God extends his offer of kindness through Jesus who fulfills the covenant promises. Some will respond like Hanun by believing the lies about God. Also like Hanun, “outside of Christ, the godless will sit besieged in their own [city] of the Ammonites, fearful of the pending judgement but unwilling to change their ways.”35 The passage ultimately calls for a response to God’s goodness through the gospel. The gospel demands an answer. George Keddie concludes correctly that “the fall of the Ammonites presages the ultimate victory of the Lord and calls for a response to the gospel now. Now is the day of salvation, the day of the Lord’s kindness, the day in which Jesus Christ calls to you to come to him, that you might have eternal life.”36

1 Emily Alpert, “Bolivia, Angered by Kerry, Says It Is Ejecting U.s. Aid Agency,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2013. http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-bolivia-kerry-ejecting-usaid-20130501,0,2165962.story (accessed May 2, 2013).

2 Malcum Moore, “North Korea Expels Un Nuclear Inspectors,” Telegraph (UK), April 14,

2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/5155821/North-Korea-expels-UN-nuclear-inspectors.html (accessed May 2, 2013).

3 Hamza Hendawi, “Weapons Inspectors Leave Iraq,” Associated Press, February 11, 2003.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500257_162-544280.html (accessed May 2, 2013).

4 Bill T. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel: the Niv Application Commentary from Biblical Text– to Contemporary Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2003), 518.

5 Kenneth L. Chafin, Preacher’s Commentary – Vol. 8- 1,2 Samuel (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 295.

6 Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (USA: Holman Reference, 1996), 357.

7 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 245.

8 Arnold, 520 and Chafin, 295

9 Bergen, 357.

10 Gordon J. Keddie, Triumph of the King (2 Samuel) (Welwyn Commentary Series) (Welwyn Commentaries) (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1993), 82.

11 Roger L. Omanson and John E. Ellington, A Handbook On the First and Second Books of Samuel (New York: United Bible Societies, 2001), 2: 804.

12 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible (Volume 2) the Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard Versions with General Articles and Introduction, Exegesis, Exposition for Each Book of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1957), 1095.

13 Chafin, 295.

14 Keddie, 81.

15 Keddie, 81.

16 Bergen, 358.

17 Buttrick, 1095 “Herodotus has an interesting parallel to this incident in the story of King Rhampsinitus’ treasure house. A thief who is trying to recover for burial the exposed body of his dead brother makes the guards drunk, and while they are torpid with wine, he shaves the right side of their faces as an additional insult.”

18Chafin, 296.

19 Arnold, 520.

20 Baldwin, 246.

21 Keddie, 87. “The cities of our God is probably a reference to the trans-Jordanic territories of Israel, through which the Arameans must have passed on their way to Ammon, and which might well be lost to Israel should they lose the battle.”

22 Bergen, 360.

23Arnold, 522.

24 Baldwin, 246.

25 Bergen, 361.

26 Arnold, 26.

27 Keddie, 87.

28 Greg Nichols, Covenant Theology—a Reformed and Baptistic Perspective On God’s Covenants (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2011).

29 Ibid.

30 William M. Schniedewind, Society and the Promise to David: the Reception History of 2 Samuel 7:1-17 (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1999), 3. This is a good insight by Schniedewind who mainly uses historical-social critical methods.

31 Schniedewind, 4.

32 Nichols

33 Ibid.

34 Keddie, 87.

35 Keddie, 87. The word cities has been inserted by the author of this paper for the word Rabbahs. Rabbah was the city of the Ammonites that the Ammonite army retreated to after being defeated by Joab.

36 Ibid, 87.

An early socialist community

socialism

The following is a description by a socialist historian in the 1800’s of an attempt at a socialist community in Cincinnati OH in 1823 founded by the father of socialism Robert Owen:

“The Community, as finally organized consisted of seventy-five or one hundred families; and included professional men, teachers, merchants, mechanics, farmers, and a few common laborers. Its economy was nearly as follows: “The property was held in trust forever, in behalf of the members of the Community, by the original purchasers, and their chosen successors, to be designated from time to time by the voice of the Community. All additional property thereafter to be acquired, by labor, purchase, or otherwise, was to be added to the common stock, for the benefit of each and all. Schools were to be established, to teach all things useful (except religion). Opinion upon all subjects was free; and the present good of the whole Community was the standard of morals. The Sabbath was a day of rest and recreation, to be improved by walks, rides, plays, and pleasing exercises; and by public lectures. Dancing was instituted as a most valuable means of physical and social culture; and the ten-pin alley and other sources of amusement were open to all. “But although Christianity was wholly ignored in the system, there was no free-loveism or other looseness of morals allowed. In short, this Community began its career under the most favorable auspices; and if any men and women in the world could have succeeded, these should have done so. How they did succeed, and how they did not, will now be shown. “For the first few weeks, all entered into the new system with a will. Service was the order of the day. Men who seldom or never before labored with their hands, devoted themselves to agriculture and the mechanic arts, with a zeal which was at least commendable, though not always according to knowledge. Ministers of the gospel guided the plough; called the swine to their corn, instead of sinners to repentance; and let patience have her perfect work over an unruly yoke of oxen. Merchants exchanged the yard-stick for the rake or pitch-fork. All appeared to labor cheerfully for the common weal. Among the women there was even more apparent self-sacrifice. Ladies who had seldom seen the inside of their own kitchens, went into that of the common eating-house (formerly a hotel), and made themselves useful among pots and kettles: and refined young ladies, who had all their lives been waited upon, took their turns in waiting upon others at the table. And several times a week all parties who chose mingled in the social dance, in the great dining-hall.” But notwithstanding the apparent heartiness and cordiality of this auspicious opening, it was in the social atmosphere of the Community that the first cloud arose. Self-love was a spirit which would not be exorcised. It whispered to the lowly maidens, whose former position in society had cultivated the spirit of meekness—”You are as good as the formerly rich and fortunate; insist upon your equality.” It reminded the favorites of former society of their lost superiority; and in spite of all rules, tinctured their words and actions with the love of self. Similar thoughts and feelings soon arose among the men; and though not so soon exhibited, they were none the less deep and strong. It is unnecessary to descend to details: suffice it to say, that at the end of three months—three months!—the leading minds in the Community were compelled to acknowledge to each other that the social life of the Community could not be bounded by a single circle. They therefore acquiesced, but reluctantly, in its division into many little circles. Still they hoped and many of them no doubt believed, that though social equality was a failure, community of property was not. But whether the law of mine and thine is natural or incidental in human character, it soon began to develop its sway. The industrious, the skillful and the strong, saw the products of their labor enjoyed by the indolent, the unskilled, and the improvident; and self-love rose against benevolence. A band of musicians insisted that their brassy harmony was as necessary to the common happiness as bread and meat; and declined to enter the harvest field or the work-shop. A lecturer upon natural science insisted upon talking only, while others worked. Mechanics, whose day’s labor brought two dollars into the common stock, insisted that they should, in justice, work only half as long as the agriculturist, whose day’s work brought but one. “For a while, of course, these jealousies were only felt; but they soon began to be spoken also. It was useless to remind all parties that the common labor of all ministered to the prosperity of the Community. Individual happiness was the law of nature, and it could not be obliterated; and before a single year had passed, this law had scattered the members of that society, which had come together so earnestly and under such favorable circumstances, back into the selfish world from which they came. “The writer of this sketch has since heard the history of that eventful year reviewed with honesty and earnestness by the best men and most intelligent parties of that unfortunate social experiment. They admitted the favorable circumstances which surrounded its commencement; the intelligence, devotion, and earnestness which were brought to the cause by its projectors; and its final, total failure. And they rested ever after in the belief that man, though disposed to philanthropy, is essentially selfish; and that a community of social equality and common property is impossible.”   – History of American Socialism by John Humphrey Noyes (1870)

The faulty philosophy of socialism is on display right in this description. Socialism is based upon a fundamentally flawed belief that human nature is basically good and if only society could be changed then social problems and ills would go away. As you can tell from the description above this belief is flawed.

The Bible tells a different story about human nature.   The book of Romans explains that all are sinners and that no one is good.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;
 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
 And the path of peace they have not known.”
 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  – Romans 3: 9-18

The Bible says that man has a sinful nature.   Because of the fall of Adam, we are all born with a sinful nature that longs for sin and a heart that rebels against God. The Great King of Israel David laments the fact and confesses that he was born with a sinful nature.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

The heart of each one of us is sinful.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:19

The truth of this sinful nature is all around us.  Turn on the nightly news and watch it unfold before you.  Watch this video compilation of black friday shopping to see how this selfish nature is not limited to gangs and  hardened criminals.
(Warning it may contain some foul language)

The Bible lets none of us off the hook, we are all sinful.  And this sinfulness is deserving of hell and death.

For the wages of sin is death. . . Romans 6:23

This is and was the fate of everyone but God saw us in our state and had mercy on us and gave us grace.  He sent Jesus to die in our place for us and to pay our penalty of sin.   By Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection we can get a new nature.

 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3-8

Because our natural birth brings us into the world with a sinful nature then in order for us to enter the kingdom of God we must be born again by the Spirit into a new nature.  A prophet in the Old Testament said that God would change our nature.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. – Ezekiel 36:26  NLT

How is one born again?  How does one gain a new heart.   The Bible tells us it is not by our effort to do good but instead it is by faith in Jesus that one is saved.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  – Romans 10:9

If God gives you this faith and you accept him, then you will receive a new nature.  This nature will work inside you to transform you by the work of the Holy Spirit.  You will be a new creation.   The evil human nature will still combat you through your life but the Holy Spirit working in your new nature will over come.  At the end of your life or when Jesus returns, he will complete the transformation he began in you  and your selfish rebellious nature will be finally cast aside once and for all.  You will then be filled with virtue, love, and compassion because it will be your only nature to do so.

But until that time, the bible warns us not to fall prey to false philosophies and ideas that will lead us nowhere.   Don’t fall into the trap of socialist thinking, no governmental system* can fix all the social ills caused by our human nature.  That is something only Jesus can do.

*(Good government takes into account human nature and works to protect freedom and liberty against this human nature by a system of checks and balances while keeping power separated and decentralized so that no one person or group of people can control everyone.)

IS THE UNITED STATES A CHRISTIAN NATION?

  IS THE UNITED STATES A CHRISTIAN NATION?

When I begin to explain that I think there should be “significant Christian influence” on government, sometimes people ask me if I think the United States is “a Christian nation.”

The Question cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” until we define more carefully what we mean by “a Christian nation.” That s one reason why people sometimes become so upset about this question – different people have different meanings in mind for the phrase “a Christian nation,” and therefore they can end up talking about different things but using the same words and just misunderstanding one another.

Here are several meanings one can attach to the phrase “a Christian nation,” together with an answer to the question that varies according to each meaning:

  1. Is Christian teaching the primary religious system that influenced the founding of the United States? Yes it is.
  2. Where the majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States Christians who generally believed in the truth of the Bible? Yes, they were. It can be easily demonstrated that a very high percentage – in fact, the overwhelming majority – of Founding Fathers were Christians, but certainly not all of them were. Today, citizens are regularly told about the lesser religious Founders (such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine), but hear nothing about the prominent Christians among the Founders (for example, 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration held what are today considered seminary or Bible school degrees, and many others of the signers were bold and outspoken in their personal Christian faith). Significantly, not one of the Founding Fathers was secular in his orientation; even Thomas Paine (certainly the least religious of the Founders) openly acknowledged God and announced his belief in his personal accountability to God, and he also directly advocated teaching creationism in the public school classroom.
  3. Is Christianity (of various sorts) the largest religion in the United States? Yes, it is. The majority of Americans (60% to 76%) identify themselves as Christians, mostly within Protestant and Catholic denominations, accounting for 51% and 25% of the population respectively.
  4. Did Christian beliefs provide the intellectual background that led to many of the cultural values still held by Americans today? (These would include things such as respect for the individual, protection of individual rights, respect for personal freedom, the value of hard work, the need for a strong national defense, the need to show care for the poor and weak, the value of generosity, and respect for the rule of law.) Yes, Christian beliefs have provided much of the intellectual background for many of these and other cultural values.
  5. Was there a Supreme court decision at one time that affirmed that the United States is a Christian nation? Yes, there was, but that wasn’t the issue that was under dispute in the case. It was in an 1892 decision, Church of the Holy Trinity v The United States, 143 US 457 (1892). The ruling established that a church had the right to hire a minister from a foreign nation (England), and thus the church was not in violation of an 1885 law that had prohibited hiring “foreigners and aliens… to perform labor in the Unites States.” The court’s argument was that there was so much evidence showing the dominant “Christian” character of this nation that Congress could not have intended to prohibit churches from hiring Christian ministers from other countries, “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. 143 US. 457 (1892)” It seems to me that here the Supreme Court was arguing that the United States is a “Christian nation” according to the meanings (3) and (4) above. There is a long history of significant Christian influence on the United States.
  6. Are a majority of people in the United States Bible-believing, evangelical, born-again Christians? No, I do not think they are. Estimates range from 18-42% of the US Population who are evangelical Christians, and I suspect a number around 20% is probably more nearly correct. In a 2005 poll, Gallup, after doing a survey designed to find how many Americans had true evangelical beliefs, came up with a figure of 22%. In addition, there are many conservative Roman Catholics who take the Bible plus the official teachings of the Catholic Church as a guide for life, and a significant number of them have a personal trust in Jesus Christ as their savior. But even if these group are added together, it does not constitute a majority of people in the United States.
  7. Is belief in Christian values the dominant perspective promoted by the United States government, the media, and universities in the United States today? No, it is not.
  8. Does the United States government promote Christianity as the national religion? No, it does not.
  9. Does a person have to profess Christian faith in order to become a US citizen or to have equal rights under the law in the United States? No certainly not. This have never been true. In fact, the Constitution itself explicitly prohibits any religious test for public office:No Religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Article VI, section 3).

    In conclusion, how can we answer the question, “Is the United States a Christian nation?” It all depends on what someone means by “A Christian nation.” In five possible meanings, the answer is yes. In four other possible meanings, the answer is no. Because there are that any possible meanings in people’s minds ( and possibly more that I have not thought of), I do not think the question is very helpful. The same points that a speaker wants to make with this claim can be made more clearly, without causing confusion, in terms of one or more of the expanded meanings that I have listed above.

(The above was an edited excerpt from Wayne Grudem’s Politics According To The Bible.   I have added some additional information into the excerpt to help clarify and provide a little more support for the various arguments.)

Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar (2009). “AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION SURVEY (ARIS) 2008” (PDF). Hartford, Connecticut, USA: Trinity College. Accessed 05/14/2012.

Eidsmoe, John (1995). Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers. Baker Academic. ISBN 0-8010-5231-9

Grudem, Wayne. Politics According to the Bible: a Comprehensive Resource For Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2010.

Where the Founding Fathers Christians.” Wallbuilders.com. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=100766#America%E2%80%99s%20Founding%20Fathers (accessed May 14, 2012).