Clearing a Hurdle to Easter

Clearing a Hurdle to Easter

The sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, recorded in Genesis 22:1-19, has been on of those texts that has drawn serious objection to biblical Christian faith.

Consider a few insights that can help those who are genuinely seeking the Lord to see the truth of what actually happened.

(1) This account is a test of Abraham’s heart. Does he love God with his entire being or will he put something of the created order, even his only son Isaac, before the Creator? Abraham passes the test because he knows God, that God is truly good, that God keeps his promises (Genesis 22:12, Hebrews 11:8-13, 17-19), and so he refuses to idolize any earthly thing, even his only son. Thus, the Lord both spares Isaac and also swears he will surely fulfill his promises to Abraham, which promises flood over in benefit on to the nations (Genesis 22:18).

But still, how can such an extreme test be justified? Simply because we live in what theologians call a “fallen world.” We are all born into a world that, without warrant, has set itself against God by setting the creature over the Creator (Romans 1:21-23). Hence, we all need to be tested so we can see where our hearts are actually at, so that we might fully surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus.

Abraham’s unquestionable obedience of faith also reveals the genuineness of his heart and character. Nehemiah 9:5-8 highlights this when it says God found Abraham’s heart faithful to him and for this reason vowed to fulfill all his promises to him.

(2) The account of Genesis 22:1-19 is a critical gospel-allegory. The bottomline is that no matter how good Abraham tried to be, no matter how good Isaac tried to be, no matter how much they believed the word of the Lord, they could never be good enough for they were in very nature sinners in need of a substitutionary atonement. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There would have been no way forward for them, or for anyone, without an acceptable sacrifice for sin. This symbolic sacrifice the Lord provided for Isaac and Abraham through a ram (Genesis 22:13).

Genesis 22:1-19 is teaching us that, either we suffer eternally for our sins or a substitute is provided for us. The ram the Lord provided on the mountain that day for Isaac and Abraham was a small picture of and glimpse into what God planned from the foundations of the earth, the once for all sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Therefore, in light of these two major insights, objections to this account of Abraham and Isaac lose their force, and those who’s souls are quickened and hearts opened know they can utterly trust Jesus, and hope in him above all.

May this help you move forward in the true meaning of Easter (John 1:29).

read more
The Truth Series: Now that I know I have the truth (Part 15)

The Truth Series: Now that I know I have the truth (Part 15)

The last several short articles were, through the lens of the Trinity, aimed at providing systematic “snapshots” of the solid reasons to believe that Christianity is true. This is what is called an apologetic. In this article I want to conclude this apologetic section of The Truth Series with the follow personal story.

A structure, building, or home with a faulty foundation does not necessarily have to be condemned. Even though it is costly, hard work I have seen homes lifted, foundations rebuilt, and structures levelled and reinforced. My wife, in-laws, and I took on such a massive undertaking years back with a small house. It was built in the 40’s. It had next to no foundation and the house was far from level, all of which led to structural issues. Even though it was a feat, for we did the work ourselves, we lifted the small house, added solid footings, and made it level, straight, and sturdy—our starter home, which has endured for decades.

The same is true of our lives. If our belief system is defective (Ephesians 2:1-3) then it can be rebuilt by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), along with whatever is needed for a secure and solid life structure. As it is for a house, so rebuilding our lives from the foundation up is time consuming and costly. Yet, the value of a human life, and the infinite value of the Triune God, is worth more than any amount of sacrifice on our part.

As Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27), he shared a brief but potent parable illustrating the very real, and practical, implications of taking full responsibility for both listening to him, and also, for obeying his words in faith. Those who obey he likens to a dwelling with a solid foundation and sturdy structure that will endure the trials of life. Those who do not obey destine themselves to ruin.

A part from the Triune God of the Bible we have not the system of truth by which to rightly interpret life in this cosmos, much less endure the trials of life (Colossians 2:1-10).

Therefore, in order to become a recipient of the all encompassing gospel of God, submit to the Holy Spirit and begin observing (Matthew 3:17) and learning to heed Jesus (Matthew 17:5).

read more
The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 14)

The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 14)

From Our Utopic Longings: A part from the Triune God revealed through the Bible, as the Sovereign Lord who will make all things right and new—who shall someday fill every heart—any hope we have for our future will never be fulfilled. This is because our deepest longings are shackled to a pointless evolutionary frame of reference that knows nothing of longing and hope. Thus, we ought to be earnestly seeking a superior narrative.

Think on some important strands of truth that help illuminate the better narrative:

(1) Our efforts to make the world what it should be are based on our inner sense that the world is not the way it should be. To say it another way, our feeling that the world is not as it should be presupposes that there is a way for the world to be, even if we don’t know or agree on what is that better way. However, evolution on its own steam is a belief bereft of such explanatory capability and narrative resources, being mindlessly driven by deterministic processes and forces void of prescription for how the world should be. Of ourselves, merely being part of “the system,” we only have arbitrary, conflicting answers and might makes right.

(2) Rather, dropping the evolutionary blinders, we can begin to understand our deep sense that the world is not the way it should be—a.k.a. the problem of evil. Once our minds are sufficiently free we can consider the insight that our longing for a better world would only make sense if the world was once the way it was meant to be but was subsequently corrupted—i.e., spoiled good. In that light, our desire for a better world, and our sorrow and indignation that it is not, would find some intelligibility and justification.

These deep seated feelings—what the world was, how the world is, how the world should be—only make sense through the divinely revealed system of truth drawn from the Bible. Moreover, our self-striving is the very way in which we have been unwittingly undermining our longings for a better world. Because we are ignoring the biblical Story of God, all our efforts to make right, renew, and reform a person, people, nation, and world have been in vain. On our own steam we have no hope for full resolution and complete fulfillment.

Therefore, our hope for a better life, a better nation, a better world, a cosmic utopia, where everything is as it should be—in which our hopes and longings are fully met—is only known in embracing the gospel centered plan of our Triune God. There is simply no other way forward. (2 Peter 3:1-18, Revelation 1:4-8, 1:1 to 22:21).

read more
The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 13)

The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 13)

From the Historical Reality of Jesus: A part from the Triune God—who has revealed himself in many ways in space and time, and definitively in his Son, by the power of his Spirit—there would no way to make any real sense of, much less benefit from, the astounding supernatural, historical fact of Jesus.

Here are but a few snapshots of the many historical facts supporting the supernatural message of Jesus in the Christian Bible.

(1) There is no doubt Jesus existed, he is not an invention or embellishment.

Edwin Yamauchi, a leading expert on ancient history, said: “We have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion.” One expert documented thirty-nine ancient sources that corroborate more than one hundred facts concerning Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. (“The Corroborating Evidence: Is There Credible Evidence of Jesus outside His Biographies?” in The Case for Christ.) 

(2) The gospel accounts are very reliable sources on Jesus.

Craig Blomberg, a foremost authority on the gospel accounts of Jesus, of Denver Seminary, said: “I once thought that the Gospels were merely religious propaganda, hopelessly tainted by overactive imaginations and evangelistic zeal.” What Blomberg discovered was “a convincing case that they reflect eyewitness testimony and bear the unmistakable earmarks of accuracy.” (“The Eyewitness Evidence: Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted” in The Case for Christ.)

Bruce Metzger, a world-class scholar (d. 2007), regarding the preservation of the biblical text, said: “The modern New Testament is about 99 percent free of meaningful textual discrepancies.” (“The Documentary Evidence: Were Jesus’ Biographies Reliably Preserved for Us?” In The Case for Christ.)

John McRay, a professor of archaeology, said: Without question “archaeological findings have enhanced the New Testament’s credibility. No discovery has ever disproved a biblical reference.” (“The Scientific Evidence: Does Archaeology Confirm or Contradict Jesus’ Biographies?” in The Case for Christ.)

(3) There is strong historical evidence in support of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. 

For brevity’s sake consider the “minimal facts case” by Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona (Habermas and Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus): (a) Jesus died by crucifixion. (b) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them. (c) Church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. (d) Skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. (e) The tomb was empty. These facts are broadly accepted by Christian and non-Christian scholars alike.

Habermas and Licona ably show that inferring Jesus rose bodily from the dead is the only explanation that fully accounts for all five facts.

What are we to make of this brief sampling from the abundant historical proof for the Jesus of the Bible? The only suitable conclusion is that God the Father sent his beloved Son Jesus Christ into the world in the full measure of the Holy Spirit to reveal himself definitively to us and to do whatever was required in holy love to reconcile us to himself. (Romans 1:4, Acts 1:1-11, 17:30-31, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Luke 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, 1 John 1:1-4.)

read more
The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 12)

The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 12)

From the Gospel of Jesus: A part from the Triune God revealed through the Bible, as the Redeemer and Savior of the world, we cannot resolve our universal problem of evil, much less avoid eternal judgment. The evolutionary belief in progress has been thoroughly overturned by world wars, ethnic superiority and racism, systemic injustice, division and hatred, secular violence, and so much more—which vicious cycles we humans continually perpetuate against one another. This is our sad tendency because we are missing an essential piece of the puzzle in our search for a solution to life.

Here are three major considerations to help move us forward:

(1) What is the solution to the problem of moral evil we cause, incur, and experience on every level of our lives? Will improved education overcome evil? Will a better economic plan where everyone is equal overcome suffering? Will greater advancements in medical science and technology overcome death? Will colonizing another planet and starting over with the best of us secure the future? As important as education, economics, medical science and technology, and space exploration are they have never alleviated nor rid us of evil, suffering, and death. In fact, as modern history bears out, many of these good things have been wrongly used, over and over, to intensify our woes.

(2) The missing puzzle piece we need, according to Jesus, is his sober assessment that we are all evil, which assessment is confirmed in the practical outworking of our lives—we are ‘b-b-b-bad to the bone’! We are bad trees bearing bad fruit, sinners who sin, our wage is death, and our future is potentially dreadful! Any answer to life bypassing this shocking truth about us is automatically doomed to failure. (Matthew 7:11, Mark 7:20-23, cf. Jeremiah 13:23; Hebrews 9:27, Romans 6:23. cf. Isaiah 1:18)

(3) Since our primary problem is alienation from our God (Romans 1:28-32, Ephesians 2:1-3, Colossians 1:21), the only solution is reconciliation to our God. This reconciliation is the astounding good news that is central to the purpose and work of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:15-17, Ephesians 2:8-10, Colossians 1:19-22). Moreover, if everyone were to repent and follow after Jesus it would make all the difference in the world (Mark 1:14b-15, 17, Galatians 5:16-26, Philippians 2:1-8)!

Therefore, seeing that we are dying sinners facing divine justice makes perfect sense that we heed the loving command of the Father, through the wooing of the Spirit of truth, to turn to Jesus as the risen Savior of the world. We need a redeemer who guarantees us full forgiveness, who changes and transforms our minds, hearts, and lives, and guarantees a perfect, eternal future of joy with him and one another. The gospel of our Triune God is the only message that perfectly corresponds to our hopeless condition and terrifying trajectory.

read more
The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 11)

The Truth Series: How do I know I have the truth? (Part 11)

From the Problem of Evil: Apart from the Triune God revealed through the Christian Bible as the standard and source of good, and also, the Bible’s teaching on human rebellion and divine judgment, we cannot explain the reality of evil, suffering, and death in our cosmos, world, and lives, much less resolve any of it. This is the case in a mere evolutionary view of the universe where nothing is good or bad. Everything just happens to be what it is. For example, there is no difference between a stone rolling over an ant hill and a nuclear bomb razing a city. Nor is there any difference between a lion killing an antelope and a human murdering another human. Given the utterly meaningless and unliveable nature of a strict evolutionary view, there must be a coherent way to account for our prolific experience of evil.

What, though, is evil? Evil is both the bad stuff humans do to each other and the world, and also, the bad stuff that nature does to itself. What are we to make of evil?

First, philosophically speaking, evil is not an original entity like good is original. Rather, evil is a later corruption of a prior good (Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2)—as in soured milk, rust on metal, and rape to sexuality. This means that good exists without evil but evil doesn’t exist without good. Practically speaking, we can live without evil but we cannot live without good. This is also why our feelings that something is seriously wrong with the world are a strong indicator that our world was originally meant to be good.

Second, every time we call something “evil” we are automatically assuming a superlative standard of “good,” without which standard our judgments are meaningless. This is the case because “evil,” as just noted, means nothing apart from “good”—just like a crooked line assumes the notion of a straight line and our sense that something is bad means we know it’s not what it ought to be (Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 1).

Therefore, with a simple definition and these two insights in mind, it’s easy to recognize the truth of biblical Christianity. The Triune God, who alone is good in himself and thus the standard of good, created an originally good world that was later corrupted by the rebellion of man and consequently cursed under God’s judgment—yet with his promise of redemption and renewal in Jesus. Apart from these truths there is no way to make sense of the huge problem of evil, much less resolve it. (Genesis 1:1, 26-28, 3:1-24, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Isaiah 33:22, 53:6, Mark 10:17-22, Romans 1:15-32, James 4:12, Revelation 20:11-15, 21:1-8.)

read more