Monday, September 24, 2012

01 - Introduction Of Compromise In The Church

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience."

Since its inception in Acts chapter 2, the church has had to confront many different compromises to true doctrine. Even before the close of the New Testament, we can see two of these destructive heresies exposed - the Judaizers and the Nicolaitans. Throughout history other compromising doctrines have come and gone. Some have denied Jesus' humanity, others have denied His deity. Some have promoted legalism and tried to bring the church under bondage to the law. Others have promoted lawlessness and try to use the grace of God as an excuse for immorality.

One particularly dangerous compromise has snuck into the church relatively recently, within the last 300 years. It is a subtle attack on the very foundation of God's Word. I'm talking about the attack on the very first book of the Bible - Genesis. Secular views and man-made theories have been slowly infiltrating the church and corrupting the minds of simple believers. (I'm speaking of those who don't study to show themselves approved concerning God's Word.)

Lyell, Darwin, and the Church
In 1830, a geologist named Charles Lyell published a book called Principles of Geology. This book promoted His theory of an extremely old earth and the idea of long ages of time before mankind ever existed. He suggested that the different rock layers that we see around the world were formed by natural forces over vast amounts of time. This idea of an ancient world without man was clearly and completely opposed to what the Bible teaches, that the world was around 6,000 years old and that the first man and woman were made during its first week. When faced with this clear contradiction to the Word of God, how did the church respond?

To understand the reaction of the church to Lyell's book, one must first understand the climate that the book was published in. The 19th century was the golden age of science. New disciplines were founded and new discoveries were being published every year. New inventions were becoming commonplace. All-in-all, it seemed as if science was giving mankind a greater understanding and mastery of the natural world around him. Labeling any idea as scientific was quickly becoming the highest form of argument.

This is the atmosphere in which the church was faced with Lyell's opposition. Not wanting to appear backwards and ignorant, the church backed away from its stand on Genesis. Instead of holding to what God's Word says, the church compromised with the old-earth ideas of Lyell. Leading this compromise was a Scottish minister named Thomas Chalmers. His compromise is still prevalent in the church today - it is known as the Gap Theory (also called the ruin/reconstruction theory). We'll discuss this theory in more detail later, but it's important to understand that this theory began as a compromise with secular man's theories.

After Lyell's book was published, another attack on Genesis began to gain ground. In 1859, a close friend of Lyell's - a man named Charles Darwin - published a book promoting an even further separation from the Biblical doctrine of creation. Darwin used Lyell's ideas as a springboard into another idea: if the earth itself could slowly evolve and exist without a Creator, why couldn't the life on it do the same?

Darwin didn't actually create the idea of evolution, but his book was probably the most responsible for summarizing and promoting it. His book was entitled On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection, Or The Preservation Of Favoured Races In The Struggle For Life. Even today, this book is considered to be the authority on biological evolution and the role of natural selection. He theorized that, given enough time, the little changes in plants and animals could amount to much larger changes - even to the point of changing one kind of animal into another.

Like Lyell's Theory, Darwin's book clearly opposed the plain reading of Genesis. Having already compromised on the age of the earth, how would the church respond to this new attack on the Bible? Sadly, they were once again more concerned about appearing ignorant than they were about holding to the authority of God's Word. The 19th century church compromised even further. Many preachers began to promote the idea of theistic evolution - the claim that Genesis was an allegory and that God simply used evolution during the process of creation.

This is the reality that is far removed from society's memory. Sadly, the majority of people believe that Darwin was embraced by the scientists while being oppressed and opposed by the church. If only this were true! In actuality, the religious and scientific reception of On The Origin Of Species was completely different from what is commonly believed today.

Far from being embraced by the scientific community, Darwin's work was rejected and criticized by scientists throughout the world.
Louis Pasteur, called the greatest scientist of the 19th century, was forcefully opposed to the theory of evolution.
Sir Richard Owen - the founder of modern paleontology and the man who coined the term "dinosaur" - also opposed Darwin and wrote him letter after letter to present scientific objections to Darwin's theory.
Even Darwin's own geology professor Adam Sedgewick wrote to him; "I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly, parts I laughed at till by sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow, because I think them utterly false and grievously mischievous."
Sir John Herschel, a famous mathematician and astronomer, called Darwin's theory "the law of higgledy-pigglety."

So you see, the scientists of Darwin's day weren't exactly open-minded about this theory that they saw to be utterly un-scientific. If this was the response of the scientific world, how did the church respond?
An English priest named Charles Kingsley wrote a letter to Darwin to congratulate him on his book.
Josiah Strong, another famous preacher of the 19th century, wrote and distributed a pamphlet that stated that Christianity and evolution must go hand-in-hand.
During Darwin's funeral, preachers from around the world poured out compliments for him - emphasizing his "patience, calmness, ingenuity," and on and on...
Believe it or not, this promoter of a godless theory was even compared to the apostle Paul!
After all of this, his body was then buried in the floor of Westminster Abbey - the church of England.

As much as I hate to say this, Darwin would be long-forgotten by now if it weren't for the compromise of the church.

Creation Compromises
Since the publishing of Darwin's book, the church has had no fewer than four compromises concerning the very first chapter of Genesis. Although each of these compromises differ on content, they all have one thing in common - they view the secular ideas of man as being more important than the clearly revealed Word of God. Each of them demonstrate this fact when they alter the very account of the Creator to agree with the man-made idea of evolution.

Let's examine these four theories more closely. As we do, keep this question in mind: whose words are more important - fallen man's or the Creator who never lies?

The Gap Theory
As we've already learned, the gap theory was first developed by a man named Thomas Chalmers. Attempting to reconcile the long ages of time with the Genesis account of creation, Chalmers tried to cram the geologic ages between the first two verses of Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:1-2 "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void (empty), and darkness covered the face of the deep..."

Declaring that God would never make something that is formless or empty, Chalmers suggested that verse 1 and verse 2 were separated by a vast amount of time. During this time, he proposed that the earth was filled with a pre-adamite race of beings who were ruled by the angel Lucifer. When Lucifer was lifted up in pride, he led this race of beings in a rebellion against God. The results were a fallen Lucifer and a world that was flooded in judgement.

Those who hold to this theory believe that the long ages of time that are supposedly found in the rock layers can be attributed to this flood that brought judgement to the world. They also believe that the disembodied souls of this pre-adamite race of beings are what we call demons today.

Later on, we'll discuss the number of problems with the gap theory, both scientific and Biblical. But for now, we can see the two main issues. First, "gappers" have to invent an entire mythology that has absolutely no scriptural record! Second, let's not forget that the whole purpose of the Gap Theory, once again, is to reconcile a godless theory with God's Word.

The Day-Age Theory
Like the Gap Theory, the day-age theory tries to find room in Genesis chapter 1 for the secular idea of millions of years. The key, they say, is found in 2 Peter 3:8 "But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

The day-age theory states that the long ages of time that are supposedly in the rock layers, were in fact laid down gradually during the creation "week." Using 2 Peter 3:8, they claim that the days of creation weren't actually days, but were vast periods of time. By claiming that the Hebrew word for day doesn't always mean a literal day, proponents of this theory claim that they can reconcile the secular ages of the earth with the biblical account of creation.

Theistic Evolution
The theory of theistic evolution is a much more drastic compromise than any we've seen yet. Instead of trying to harmonize secular theories with the Bible's account of creation, theistic evolution simply discards the record of Genesis 1 as a good story that isn't literally true. The entire first chapter (indeed, the entire first book) of the Bible is simply considered to be an allegory. The point, they say, is that God made the world - exactly how He did that seems to be less clear.

"God created," they say, "but He used evolution to do it." Essentially, the theory of theistic evolution embraces every evolutionary idea - from the age of the earth to the evolution of life - and then tack on the claim that it was guided by God. In this way, they seem to be able to accept the secular theory of evolution while still claiming to believe the Bible. Sadly, every time that the evolutionist and the Bible disagree, the theistic evolutionist is quick to alter God's Word to fit the man-made ideas.

We will further discuss the problems that theistic evolutionists face - but their largest problem is this; is God's Word authoritative or not?

Progressive Creation
In many ways, this theory is similar to theistic evolution. They both embrace the idea of long periods of time before man when the earth was inhabited by different plants and animal species. They also believe that each of the rock layers in the earth came from different geologic ages in its history. But rather than saying that God guided the process of evolution, progressive creationists claim that the rock layers show a progressive series of creations and the destruction of those creations.

Progressive creationists believe that at various times God filled the earth with the creatures we see in the fossils, allowed them to live for thousands of years, then wiped them out and replaced them with others. After creating and destroying successively for millions of years, God finally placed the first "real" humans in the Garden of Eden.

Progressive creationists, like Hugh Ross, even believe in races of "soul-less" apemen that were created by God and then wiped out and replaced by true humans!

This theory has many problems - not the least of which is the problem of turning God into a schizophrenic who can't make up His mind! The biggest problem they have though is the fact that they believe in millions of years of death before sin - something that the Bible disagrees with.

The Consequences Of Not Being Biblically Grounded
Psalm 11:3 "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

None of these four compromises are Biblical, none of them are scientific, and none of them are necessary! We'll see later that the scientific evidence simply doesn't support the idea of millions of years. But what we need to realize now is that every believer should start from the Word Of God.

Sadly, Christians that don't know where they stand or the trustworthiness of the Bible are falling into these compromises. Most Christians don't know what God has told us about creation or how important Genesis is to our faith. Too many of us are willing to compromise on the age of the earth and the way it was created - just as long as we can hold on to Jesus. What these compromisers don't understand is that every doctrine we have is rooted in Genesis!

Think about this:
What gives God the right to set the rules?
Why is mankind different from the animals?
Why are we in charge of the earth and it's creatures?
Where did sin and death come from?
Why do we need to be redeemed?
Why is Jesus' blood sacrifice necessary?
What is the definition of marriage - and why?
The origin of every one of these doctrines is found in the first few chapters of Genesis. Any believer that doesn't know where he stands on the authority of the Bible is in danger of falling into compromise and losing their foundation.

We need to hold onto what the Word of God says and use that as the only starting point for the way we see the world. Every belief we have needs to be rooted in the Bible, not in a fallen man's ideas. Knowing this, let's take a look at what a believer should believe about the beginning of the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yahweh's Benefits - Part 2

Psalm 103:1-2 “Bless YAHWEH, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits...”

We’ve already seen that we are made up of three parts; spirit, soul, and body. From John 4:23 we know that our spirit is (or should be) always in a state of worship. This is why we can worship God anytime and anywhere without any emotion needed! Our soul, however, needs to be “primed” in order to worship. This is the point of Psalm 103:1-5 - leading your soul into worship. We pull our mind, will and emotions into worship by remembering Yahweh’s benefits.

Last time, we looked at the first three benefits in this list
1. Forgiveness of all our sin - past, present, and future!
2. Healing from every disease - no matter how big or small
3. Redemption from eternal destruction

But David didn’t stop there. There are three more benefits in his list:

4. “...Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies...”

The Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” is the word chesed. This beautiful, ancient word has no true English counterpart. FIrst of all, it carries the meaning of compassion and tender care in action. In other words, it is the very act of mercy! Secondly, this word denotes the motivation behind the act - an intense love.

God loves us with an intense, burning love. Song of Solomon 8:6 describes this kind of love: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame.” The very last word in this verse, the word we translate as “vehement flame” is the word shalhebeth - it means “the very fire of Yahweh.” God’s love burns for us out of His very nature!

5. “...Who satisfies your mouth with good things...”

God is the giver of good things. Jesus compared and contrasted the Father with earthly parents to make this very point. If you, as sinful and wicked people, know how to love and care for your children with good things - don’t you think your Father in Heaven will provide for His kids?

To many people don’t understand this. If they did, they would pray much differently! Instead of begging and pleading for things that they don’t even believe God wants to give them, they would come boldly and ask in confident faith. That is the only type of prayer that gets answers! There is one continuing theme whenever the Bible teaches on prayer; prayers of faith get answered, prayers of doubt and unbelief are ineffective.

So it is vitally important to believe that God wants to satisfy His kids with good things!

6. “ that your youth is renewed like the eagles.”

Face it, life is tough. It takes a toll on all of us! Have you ever had a day that was just harsh? How about a harsh week? A month? What is the best way to repair ourselves when we’re beaten down by the pressure of life?

For most people, it’s time off. We get away from it all and rest. Whether it’s just rest on the weekend or a nice, long vacation - rest has a rejuvenating effect on all of us.

But what happens when the pressure seems to never stop? What do you do you’re just as overwhelmed after a vacation as you were before it? The answer is the last benefit on this list - a renewed youth. This doesn’t mean turning the clock back physically. But it does carry the meaning of reversing the damage that life does to all of us.

When we let Him, God has this wonderful way of healing the damage of a lifetime and lifting every burden from our shoulders. Without the weights and pressures of natural life, we’re then free to soar into the spiritual life that God has prepared for us.

These are benefits that we must remember. David emphasizes this in verse 2 - “forget not all His benefits.” Why is it so important to remember these six things?

First of all, these are six areas that so often drag us into depression. How often have you seen a believer depressed about what they did wrong? Would it be better for them to remember the benefit of forgiveness? How often does the fear and worry of sickness blind us to the way God cares for us? Have you ever lost sight of your eternal destiny in heaven and found yourself completely focused on this temporary life? Have you ever felt alone and unloved? Overwhelmed with lack? Beaten down by life in this world?

If any of this sounds familiar, then you need to sit down and remember the benefits of Yahweh! The only way to rise out of this kind of oppression is to get your focus back on spiritual things. Life in this sin-filled world can be harsh and overwhelming. But we have everything we need to stay above it all! God’s promises give us victory over the normal life!

Just look at what Peter tells us about the promise of God: “ which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these [promises] you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” God’s promises to us give us access to His own divine nature!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Yahweh's Benefits

Psalm 103:1-2 “Bless Yahweh, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits

Did you know that serving God has benefits? Did you know that it pays to be on God’s side? Too many people have a negative view of the Christian’s life. They believe that serving God means cutting all the good things out of life. Their motto can be found in Malachi 3:14 - “It is useless to serve God. What did we gain by obeying his laws?

Sadly, there are even a lot of Christians out there who have forgotten the joy that comes with salvation. They’ve forgotten the benefits that their God provides! They have adopted the mindset that God doesn’t give them sad! I believe Psalm 103 was written for joyless believers - people who have forgotten how good it is to be on God’s side! Why else would David say, “Don’t forget these things!”

What are His benefits? Without looking up Psalm 103, can you name any? Are the things in this list at the front of your mind - or have you forgotten them? If you’re like most Christians, you’ve lost sight of these things, and you’re probably struggling with the lack of joy and  peace in your life. It’s time to get back to the benefits of Yahweh!

1. "...Who forgives all your sins..."

Do you understand that every lawless, rebellious, sinful, death-deserving thing that you've ever done has been washed away? Do you understand that you're not guilty anymore? You're not an "old sinner, saved by grace"! You were and old sinner, now you are saved by grace!

Pay attention to what Hebrews 8:12 says: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." God chose to forget every sin you've ever committed. If He sees you as sinless, why are you still behaving like a sinner? Why are you still letting guilt and shame keep you from your prayer time? Why are you  wondering if God will forgive you?

Why aren't Christians the happiest people on earth? We should be - look at what David said in Psalm 32:1. "Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!"

But forgiveness isn't the only benefit!

2. "...Who heals all your diseases..." 

Healing is a benefit of serving God! Did you know this? Do you understand that it isn't God's plan for you to be sick? God believes in healing so much that He named Himself Yahweh Rapha - The LORD your Healer. Shouldn't that convince you that He's interested in the well-being of our physical body? If that doesn't convince you, maybe this will...

Jesus paid a tremendous price for our healing. Isaiah 53:5 says: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." If Jesus only wanted us forgiven, He would have gone straight for the cross. After all, it was His death that forgave our sin. So why did He endure the Roman whip? It was for our healing! If you want to understand how much God wants us healed, look at the price He paid for it!

Healing is a benefit  of serving God!

3.  "...Who redeems your life from destruction..."

Do you remember the promise of John 3:16? That's not just a salvation verse - it's a promise for believers too! "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." 

Death has no power over us anymore! We should have no fear of leaving this world. We pay homage to this promise at funerals - but do we really believe it? Do we really understand what Paul said, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord"?

Our body may lay down and decay like the rest of the world - but we will never die! When we lay down this earthly body, we simply pick up a Heavenly one! Our life has been redeemed from destruction. We will never face the death we once had to face. Jesus paid for our eternal life!

These are just half of the benefits that we are supposed to remember. When was the last time you focused on these? I'm convinced this will eliminate sorrow and sadness and will infuse every believer with new joy!  Remembering these benefits is how you get your soul to "Bless the Lord!"