Matt Postiff's Blog
I did some under-the-hood work on the blog today. The RSS feed is at the same place as it has been, but all the old entries are included, with improved titles. Broken links have been fixed, but probably some more have been introduced. Let me know if you run into any--thanks!
13:7 The good shepherd is stricken.
13:8 Early Tribulation period. This is the beginning of the "dark" period of the Day of the Lord.
12:1-3 The nations come against Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation.
14:1-2 Israel is mostly destroyed by the nations.
The Lord returns from heaven.
12:4-9, 14:3-7, 12-15. God delivers Israel from their enemies by providing an escape through a newly created valley through the Mount of Olives and supernaturally destroying Israel's enemies. The "blessing" portion of the Day of the Lord begins.
12:10-13:6, 9. Spiritual salvation of the remnant, including their repentance from sin, receiving the cleansing of forgiveness, and the removal of idolatry and false prophets from the land.
14:8-11. Kingdom blessing includes God's blessing on the land and rule over the entire earth. Significant topographical modifications will be made to the area around Jerusalem.
14:16-21. Kingdom blessing also includes the nations worshiping before God and widespread ceremonial holiness throughout Jerusalem, even on horses bells and cooking utensils.
The sword awakes against the shepherd and strikes him. This is the crucifixion of Christ.
The sheep will be scattered after Christ's arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Some interpret this as the dispersion after 70 AD when the city was destroyed by the Roman general Titus. But Jesus applies it to the disciples (Matt. 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27, 50) and to Peter specifically (Matthew 26:33-35, 69-74; Mark 14:29-31, 54, 66-72).
The turning of God's hand against the little ones represents the time of the dispersion which continues until the present day, with many Jews still outside of the land, and many catastrophes befalling them. I cannot help but thinking of the Holocaust in this regard. God ultimately did permit this atrocity, at the hands of wicked Gentiles.
Two thirds shall be cut off and die but one third shall be left. This refers to the Tribulation, which is full of death for Jews as well as Gentiles. See Revelation 8:11, 9:15, 12:13, 13:7, 13:15, 19:21.
The one third will be refined through fire and will call on the name of the Lord. This remnant refers to the same group which we read about in 12:10-13:6 that will be saved en masse at the last day.
This past summer, I ran across the tract pictured above, written by the folks at MasterTracts.com. I cannot recommend it. The purpose of this post is to point out some serious problems with the tract.
The picture on the front is cute, but it trivializes the important subject matter at hand: the gospel. The illustration about Santa is well and good, but the message starts to go off the tracks when the author writes, "They [children] want to get what they deserve." The fact is, children want what they want; they want to receive far more than they deserve. In fact, if they were to be judged on their performance, they would deserve little if anything.
The tract has a jarring transition with the sentence "Why is hell necessary?" With this sentence, a heavy emphasis on hell comes to the fore, with no emphasis on heaven or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It offers some true statements about sin and the penalty for sin, but then it says, "God invites us to receive Jesus Christ as Savior, accepting His death as the full and just payment for our sins." This makes it sound like we accept the full and just payment for our sins, but that is not the case. The right way to explain it is that God has accepted Christ's work, and we are to exercise repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to believe in his resurrection from the dead in order to be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The author of the tract seemingly avoids calling upon the reader to acknowledge that Christ is Lord, something that is essential to a proper gospel response.
The tract adds what seems to be a definition of the word saved when it says that those trust Christ "will be saved, i.e., not go to hell." That is hardly a sufficient definition of the idea of salvation. What of heaven? What of union with Christ? What of a personal connection to Him? Reconciliation? Forgiveness?
Thus far, we might think to excuse some of these problems because of necessary brevity in a small tract format. I am inclined, however, to think that the errors we see indicate a deficient theology of salvation.
Finally, the last sentence says that a perfect gift is awaiting, "but only if we do what he tells us." We have to be so careful about using words like "do" in a context like this. It is far better to say "but only if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Bottom line: take care what you pass out as part of your evangelistic ministry. Not all tracts are created equal. A better option would be the Bridge Tract.
Conventional wisdom says that if your church has mostly old people, it is dying and will soon be buried and forgotten.
What qualifies as old is somewhat slippery, with no one wanting to admit that they fall into that category, but we'll say, for sake of argument, the cut-off age is 55 years.
I grant there are a lot of situations that have made the adage work out well. And the church needs to reach everyone in its community, including younger people and families so that it does not simply "die off."
But in some cases, the idea behind the conventional wisdom has led to an age-based discrimination in which some churches take older folks for granted or even actively marginalize them. That is a big mistake. Here's why:
- An article in The Atlantic shows that the distribution of the population by age is markedly shifting toward the older end of the spectrum. The "age pyramid" used to be a triangle; now it is more rectangular, and in China it is an upside-down trapezoid because of government birth control policies.
- Older Christians often have a lot of Biblical and experiential wisdom, so it would be shortsighted to marginalize them. One church I know of drove all the older folks away with their "new methods" and destroyed the church as a true gospel witness. To ignore the elders smacks of the youthful "wisdom" of Rehoboam that rejected good counsel (1 Kings 12:6-8).
- Older Christians may be driven away from such churches and need a church home that is not so culturally relevant (with loud music, for instance) that it is irrelevant for the older culture.
- Older Christians have more time (especially if retired) and more disposable income to support God's work.
- The church must reach out to older people as well, for there are many who do not know the gospel of Christ. The Great Commission knows no age limits.
- The body of Christ is supposed to diverse, and I would argue it should be about as diverse in terms of ethnic and age makeup as the culture around it. A church with only young people might be "exciting" but it would not be right.
- The church needs older men and women to teach the younger men and women. In our culture, with the teen-ification of twenty somethings, I don't think this means that 30 year-olds qualify as "older" so as to teach the 20 year-olds. We need men and women in their 50s and 60s who have some Biblical meat on their bones to train the younger people how to conduct themselves, how to dress, how to run the home, how to participate in church, etc. (Titus 2:3-5)
- The fact is that all of us are getting older. I hope there are plenty of elderly-friendly churches when I reach that stage!
Consider how your church might reach older folks. That will please God.
For some Christians, thinking about the end times, the Tribulation, the Antichrist, and how bad society is these days is a traumatic thing. Every current event is interpreted as if it is a herald of the immediate collapse of the world. This can bring paralyzing fear, or a morbid kind of existence. Here are a few quick pastoral thoughts on living in light of the end times.
- Do not worry. Our Lord taught us this in His sermons, but it is a hard lesson to learn.
- Do what you know God wants you to do. The Bible is very clear about this. Obey the instructions you have, don't concern yourself with the future which you do not know.
- Do not follow conspiracy theories. Your focus needs to be on things that are true and honest and just and pure and lovely, not on ugly and speculative and sinful things.
Last month, Chuck Lawless wrote an interesting post on what consultants have learned about the question of why church members don't invite others to church. I noticed that a lot of these reasons are "me" centered.
- I just don't think about it.
- I'm afraid I'll be rejected.
- The music isn't that good.
- The preaching isn't strong.
- We've got too many church problems right now.
- Our church is already too crowded.
- Nobody ever challenged me to invite anyone.
- I don't know how to start the conversation.
- It's the Spirit's job--not mine--to bring people to church.
- It's too far for people to come.
What would I say if I were asked to speak before an audience of Christians on the subject of integrity? Here are some thoughts.
- What is the definition of integrity? "The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness."
- We must have integrity in our obedience to the Bible.
- We must have integrity in our marriages.
- We must have integrity in our teaching of others.
- We must have integrity in our planning (2 Cor. 1:17).
- We must have integrity in our confessions of faith.
- We must have integrity in our church governance.
- We must have integrity in our relationship with our children.
Any other thoughts you would add?
Last time we pondered the definition of morals and saw that morals and sin are related to one another. We continue to another question now.
Is it Immoral to Hold Wrong Morals?
To hold a moral (standard of behavior) that is opposed to a moral that God holds is itself immoral, i.e., a sin. This is because God's standard is the standard. What He holds is right; holding something else is wrong. It is not honoring to Him. We may disagree as to our understanding of what God's revealed standard is, but it seems that we should agree that there is a standard and failing to hold that is itself a sin. God cares not only about what one does but who one is internally.
Consider the simple command to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. That is what God says is acceptable. If you reject Jesus, then you are saying that God's belief about appropriate behavior is wrong. Thus, it is true that all who reject Christ are immoral, at least in that part of their standards for behavior.
Remember we said earlier that non-Christians borrow morality from the Christian God. They "borrow" it because although they have been given a conscience by God, yet they deny God's place of authority over them, but still use some of the God-given standard they have in their conscience in order to live in an orderly fashion.
Are All Believers Moral?
True Christians hold to a standard of behavior that is consistent with what is presented in the Bible, that is, with the standard God desires. In that sense, believers are moral. However, no Christian is completely consistent in following the Bible's moral standard and so falls short of the standard in some measure.
Are Atheists Immoral?
Christian, is it immoral to reject Jesus? Is it immoral to believe that abortion is OK? Is it immoral to believe that gay marriage is acceptable? Is it immoral to believe that a command of God is a sin? Is it immoral to trample the Savior underfoot and count the new covenant blood as nothing, and insult the Holy Spirit?
Let me ask the question a different way. Do atheists believe that certain things are acceptable which God does not believe are acceptable? Certainly. Atheists believe it is acceptable to reject belief in God, or to live practically as if God doesn't exist. That is not acceptable to God. Atheists believe it is OK to reject salvation offered in Jesus Christ, whereas God commands all people to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30-31).
I expand my thought from atheists to the more general category of non-Christians. Many non-Christians today believe that the morals Christians hold are in fact wrong and Christians are thus evil. In these areas (abortion, gay marriage, as examples), they hold the reverse morals of the Christian. They would affirm that Christians are immoral! But the fact of the matter is, according to divine revelation, it is immoral to be an unbeliever; it is immoral to think that rejecting God is OK.
Those who reject God and those who are Christians have, in many ways, diametrically opposed morals. The severe conflict between them will never go away because they hold different morals. The Christian contention is that those holding a set of unbiblical principles are in fact immoral. And we don't have to apologize for saying that. It is the real core of the difference between the believer and the unbeliever.
Are you evil?
The point of this post is that you cannot call a genuine Christian evil in an unqualified sense.
Variations on the question "are you evil" have repeatedly come up over the years of my ministry. I was reminded of it again as a I read a post by Ben Edwards at the DBTS blog.
Consider the following interchange between two born again believers in Jesus Christ:
Bill asks John, "How are you doing today?" John replies, "I'm good." Bill retorts, "John, there is none good, no not one!"
Ouch! John is not good? He may be feeling fine, but Bill has pulled the rug out by changing the context of the question in the middle of the conversation.
Certainly none of us measures up to God's standard of perfection (Matthew 5:48). Certainly Jesus called fathers evil in Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13, although He may have been speaking to a mixed audience of believers and unbelievers, or mostly unbelievers. Certainly there is none good like God (Mark 10:18).
But does that mean that we have to see ourselves as just plain-old evil people, even if we have repented of sin and are making good progress on the narrow way?
Not at all. Consider Barnabas. "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:24). Other texts that refer to people as good are Proverbs 12:2, 13:22, 14:14; Matthew 12:35; and Luke 6:45.
Barnabas was a good man. If you are a Christian, you should be a good man or woman too. You should be more like your Heavenly Father instead of like the evil earthly fathers Jesus mentioned. You should be good and getting better. You must NOT be evil. You must stop any evil that you are doing.
God is in the business of taking the raw material of evil people and making them into good people. Where are you on God's assembly line?
Answer these questions and see.
This is a self-evaluation tool for you to determine if you are thinking and living like a Christian, by the Bible's definition of Christian. Make no mistake that this is not a to do list to accomplish in order to become a Christian. You become a Christian by repentant faith placed solely in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and rose again. You can evaluate if your repentant faith is real by asking yourself some questions such as the following.
You will notice that some of these questions are about your conversion, while others concern the evidence that exists in your life to justify or disprove your claim that you are a Christian. Note that the evidence comes from a general pattern of your life. To answer a question yes, you need not have perfection in the area in question. But answering yes also means that your life gives the evidence much more than "once in a while."
Is your assurance is well-founded? These questions will help you to think clearly on that topic.
- Do you believe that Jesus is Savior?
- Do you believe that Jesus is Lord?
- Do you believe that Jesus physically arose from the dead?
- Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Are you a follower of Jesus?
- Do you tell others these things (#1-#5) about yourself?
- Have you made a conscious decision that you do not want to sin?
- Thinking of the time when you became a Christian, could an external observer see a difference in your life now compared to before?
- Do you enjoy sin?
- Do you desire to behave better?
- Are you ready to forgive those who have offended you?
- Has there been a change in your speech since the time when you became a Christian?
- Regarding your sinful habits, are you fighting against them?
- Do you believe Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient to completely save you, or is something else needed to save you?
- Do you believe that you must do good works in order to obtain salvation?
- Do you do good works?
- Do you regularly confess your sins?
- Do you love the world or the things in world?
- Do you believe that Jesus has really come to the world in the flesh?
- Do you love others in what you say?
- Do you love others in what you do?
- Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God?
- Do you believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah?
- Have you been baptized by immersion in water?
- Do you love God with all your heart?
- Do you hate sin?
- Do you make a regular practice of attending church?
- Are you an active, serving member in a local church?
- Do you pray regularly?
- Do you read the Bible regularly?
- Do you love the world more than you love God?
- Do you believe the Bible is inspired (inerrant, authoritative, etc.)?
- Do you tell other people how to be saved?
- Do you believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt and penalty for your sins?
- Do you believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary?
- Do you have idols in your life (things you can't live without)?
- What kind of television shows do you watch?
- Do you give a significant amount of your time and finances to support the Lord's work?
- Do non-Christians mock or persecute you for being a Christian?
- Do you believe Jesus is coming back to the Earth?
- Do you believe God created the heavens and the earth as recorded in Genesis?
- Do you believe God judged the earth with a world-wide flood?
- Do you believe that Adam and Eve were real individuals?
- Do you believe that people who don't believe in the person and work of Christ will go to hell for eternity?
- Do you believe in the Trinity?
- Do you believe Jesus is God?
- Are you dating an unbeliever?
- Do you refuse to obey clear commands in Scripture?
- Are most of your friends Christians?
Hit a run post. I feel like I've said this before. We need to acknowledge that it is possible to ask a bad question. We can ask a question that misleads, or a question that exposes our own answer before we give an answer.
For example: can a Christian drink alcohol?
A better question would be: should a Christian drink alcohol?
In this case, the first question is one of permission. It biases the discussion from the start, so that if a "yes" answer is extracted from the respondent, then all seems to be well for the alcohol drinker. The second question asks a question of value and points the discussion in the direction of what is best, rather than the lowest permissible standard. In reality, both questions need to be asked, and it is a failure to stop at the first question and not ask the second.
That is the subject of a blog post worth reading.