Last week we talked about doubt and how it was a good thing. Doubt motivates us to questions which then lead to answers. Subsequently this leads to a more thorough understanding of something. Doubt exists because of the Genesis 3 fiasco. The serpent created doubt in the mind of Eve and as a result she took of the fruit ate and gave some to her husband who was with her. Since then the entirety of humanity has doubted just about everything. But just because doubt exists in our minds about something specific, namely Christianity and its veracity, it does not nullify or void the truth contained within it.
In the last post, which you can find here (Does Doubt Nullify Christianity); we briefly covered what God says about His word, the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity. The truth of Christianity is not based on our emotions, whether we have a good day, a bad day, or any other convictions we might have. Christianity is true because God attested to its truth when He revealed Himself in His word. However, the next logical question or contested opinion would be "how do you know God is real?"
In a word, Bible. It repeatedly attests to God's existence and Jesus Himself said, He was the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. But this may not be good enough for some. Before we get into the four main questions of life, let me take this opportunity to convince you of God's existence in 30 seconds.
When you look at a painting, how do you know there was a painter? The painting is proof of the painter.
When you look at a building how do you know there was a builder? The building is proof of the builder.
The same logic follows when you look at Creation. Creation is proof of a Creator. See Genesis 1:1.
See! Told ya! 30 seconds was all it took. Now that we have that established let's address those questions.
In this post we will address the first question. The reason for this is simple. The other three questions must derive logically, consistently, and coherently from the first. That is to say, the answer to question one will ultimately determine the answers to questions two through four. One of the most fundamental and foundational questions that every has asked or will ask in his / her lifetime is "where did I come from?" The reason for this is simple. Genesis 1:26 which says, "Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…" Verse 27 says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Therefore, the answer is simple. You and I come from our Creator in who's image we are created.
Christianity is the only belief system that can answer this question (and the other three) logically, coherently, and completely. I realize that some will argue that no everyone believes that. Now some believe that we descended from ape like creatures over millions of years through the process of evolution, First, the process of evolution is scientifically impossible. There is no scientific possibility for nothing to create everything. It is intellectual suicide to subscribe to such a notion. Second, if this was indeed how everything came about the answer to this question would not be satisfactorily provided in such a belief.
Let's entertain the notion of evolution, millions of years, and ape like creatures. After all this is what is primarily taught in our public institutions and scientific communities as fact. Any and all dissension from this flimsy belief system is suppressed or written off as "intellectually inferior" or "narrow-minded simpletons." Consider for a moment how none of what this belief system purports can be observed, and all of the supposed "facts" to support such a belief are based largely on assumptions.
However, nevermind that. Let's pretend that we all descended from ape like creatures over millions of years of random accidents that produced life. That life then somehow developed into more complicated life forms until you have mankind. If this is our past, than our future does not matter. If we are the result of an accidental beginning, then who cares where we are going, we have no existential purpose, and it does not really matter how we live. The reason for this logical progression is simple. If we are by-products of accidents that occurred over millions of years then there is no existential absolute truth. This means there is no absolute morality, no intrinsic meaning, value or purpose, and ultimately no absolute rules to follow past our relative agreements.
But, if we were created in the image of a triune God who is just, holy, loving, relational, and many other things; it makes sense that we, the pinnacle of His creation would then be able to answer these questions satisfactorily. You and I were created in the image of God; (where did I come from) therefore, you and I are going end up in Heaven or Hell (where am I going). Subsequently, our purpose is found in the One who created us (we have intrinsic value). We are to glorify Him. Naturally, we would then live our lives in a way that honors His commandments and statutes (existential morality). You see God sets that standard of truth. It is not arbitrary. God sets the standard of morality. It is not dictated by majority or up for debate. God sets the standard for meaning, value, and purpose. You are not only worth what you can contribute. You are intrinsically valuable to an all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient God who created you for good works in Christ Jesus.
You see, the only belief system that can answer these questions satisfactorily is biblical Christianity. Next week we will look at question number two. Where am I going? The question of destiny.
made in the image of god
Racism is wrong, it should be condemned unequivocally by all. By that is not the problem, the problem is that most do not condemn it for the right reasons. Racism can only truly be wrong if there is an objective moral authority that makes this claim. If right and wrong are not standardized by the same objective authority than all is left up to the relative interpretation of the majority. Some would agree that this is the way it should be. I would ask if this is true, why did so many fight to end the Third Reich of Hitler’s Nazi regime? One might argue it was because the relative moral majority; namely the USA and its allies, sought to end such a horrible stain on the history of humanity. This argument would be correct and I would agree; however, I would submit to you a question worth pondering for a moment.
What if Hitler continued as the relative moral majority? What if the only reason another came along and denounced his terror was because it was offensive, violent and despicable? Let me add here an obviously needed disclaimer: I believe that all murder, violence, hate, and racism is wrong but that is not what I am contesting. I am contesting the relative thought behind the societal claims of why racism is wrong. These claims are wrong and relative to similar thinking behind “hey don’t do that because I do not like it.” I have seen nothing in the media that says “Racism is wrong because God denounces it!” I probably never will. But here is my point, if these people fighting on either side of this and all through history have altogether abandoned God or believe there is no god; and therefore no objective moral authority, how can any of them make the relative claim that behavior on either side is wrong.
I am not looking to split hairs here, but the fact of the matter is this; God created everything and therefore is in charge of everything and He is very real, He denounces hate, violence and any type of favoritism shown to someone because of their status or skin color. While this is true and confirmed in the Bible, the majority of the “victims” on either side maintain a worldview devoid of any objective moral authority. Therefore, they are behaving consistently within their ideological worldview. Again, let me say that I believe all murder, violence, hate, and racism is wrong. However, if the only reason these national atrocities are denounced is because someone is being treated different, offended, attacked or murdered we have missed the point. The problem was, is and always will be sin. The human heart is an idol factory and the Bible says that anything put before God becomes your god. This is important to understand because this is exactly what the 10 Commandments is about. Look at them:
YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Another account takes place in Luke 10 where a lawyer stood up to test him. He asked “teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds:
And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered (that is the lawyer), “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” And He said to him (that is Jesus), “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.”
What did Jesus mean in each of these responses? Good question and I am glad you asked because as He said, “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets;” and “do this and you shall inherit eternal life.” Coincidentally, (or perhaps not) the lawyer had a similar question; again just to test the Lord Jesus, he asks: “And who is my neighbor?” I would agree it is a legitimate question. Notice how the two “Great Commandments” sum up the 10 Commandments. The first four are summed up in the first Great Commandment and the last six are summed up in the second Great Commandment. Back to the question of “my neighbor.” In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus tells a parable that teaches this lawyer and us who our neighbor is.
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
In this day, the Samaritans and Jews did not get along in fact one might say they hated each other. When the Pharisees would go up from Galilee to Jerusalem they took an “around Samaria” approach even though walking straight through the country would be faster. They both exchanged hostility toward each other. The Jews believed Jerusalem was the only right place to worship and that they were better than the Samaritans. Likewise the Samaritans believed the same and hostility ensued. Regarding the parable, those whom one would expect to help this poor man that was beaten, mugged, and robbed did not.
The Priest passed by as he walked to the other side of the road, likewise did the Levite. Not only did these two leave this man for dead, they went out of their way to do it. Along comes a Samaritan, he has compassion for the victim. He bandages him, cares for him and even puts him up in a hotel with an advanced deposit so the man can rest and recuperate. So the question is, who is my neighbor? From an objective, eternal, powerful, compassionate, merciful, gracious, and moral authority (namely Jesus) everyone.
Let me repeat that, EVERYONE is my neighbor. This is the point of Jesus’ parable. Therefore, I should first and foremost love God, and then love my neighbor. But if I do not love God (the first commandment) I cannot love my neighbor. You see, any time something is placed on the throne of our hearts, it removes God, and when God is removed we seek after that which we desire. We hate, we are greedy, we murder, fight, yell and scream at each other. We break the first Great Commandment and once it is broken we are sure to break the second Great Commandment. If we do not love God we cannot love our neighbor; and if everyone is our neighbor, hate and murder will continue to propagate to everyone because of their differences.
I would go a step further; commandment number six says You shall not murder! which most would agree they are not guilty of, but look again at God’s standard when Jesus says in Matthew 5:21- 22
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with (or hates) his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Lest you say, “well, this is directed toward my brother and I am fine with him.” While the Greek word for brother and neighbor are different; the context of each passage is essentially this, don’t hate anyone because when you do, you are committing spiritual murder and willingly leading yourself into the fiery hell. James has a bit to say about this as well. "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
We all should do well to heed that warning. If we show partiality to anyone because of their status or skin color we are committing sin against a Holy and Righteous God and He will not acquit the wicked. God sent Jesus Christ His son to take on human flesh; fully God, fully Man to live the perfect sinless, God obedient life we could not, so that He (that is Jesus) could save all those that would put their faith and trust in Him and Him alone. Christ gave His perfect sacrificial life on the Cross to make atonement (that is, reconciling God to humankind) for our sinfulness.
Paul tells us in Romans 14:11
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
As a middle Eastern Jew; Jesus did not just die for the European Caucasian, He died for all that would believe. In fact Revelation 5:9 and 7:9-12 make this EVERYONE abundantly clear when the text respectively says: And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Pause and absorb that in both of these passages God makes very clear that all people are God’s people and all people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will be saved. The only distinction God makes is sinner or saint. When the time comes for us to stand before a Holy and Righteous God, we will have to give an account for everything we have done, said, and thought. At that time, the only thing that will matter is status before God, saved or lost, in Christ or in Adam, Heaven bound or Hell bound. If Heaven bound we will worship God like He deserves or spend an eternity in fiery Hell without Him.
You see God made us with a natural inclination to worship in our hearts. It was rightly bestowed unto Him. But then Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought sin, death, disease, and destruction upon us on. Our hearts are still inclined to worship; however, they will naturally worship anything but God. Once we remove God, His moral authority and absolute truth from our lives, we propagate hate, murder, selfishness, envy, racism, and all manner of abuse at the expense of others to fulfill our wicked desires. Only the God of Heaven, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ and the effectual change of the Holy Spirit can bring about a change in the idol and hate factory that is the human heart.
We were made to worship; the question is, what will you worship?
What does discipleship in the home look like, what are practical ways of accomplishing this feat, and what are the fruits of such an endeavor. Discipling our children is not just a necessity, it is a command from God. Jesus, when He was 12 was constantly at the temple studying about God and increasing His knowledge of His heavenly Father. We increase our head knowledge as the Holy Spirit works in our heart to bring about change or heart knowledge.
Our children face what are now considered cultural norms; but are unprecedented ways of sinning against a Holy God. Paul faced similar circumstances in his day. He explains the reasons behind this behavior in Romans 1:21-23.
21 "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."
There is the crux of the issue. Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. The world is a tough place to be in. Ask anyone that has a day job and they will tell you the same. Ask some of your non-Christian friends or co-workers and even they will agree with you. Kids are pulled in every direction by every person they meet. Society at large tells them they can be anything they want as long as what they want is not Christianity. Society tells them to engage in sexual activity and to try new things so long as that new thing is not Christianity. There is a culture war fought in the spiritual realm and the enemy has his ballistic missile cross-hairs on your children.
Consider that your children spend an average of 35 hours a week in the public sphere of influence. 35 hours translates to 140 a month, and 1260 hours a year in a traditional school year. They spend hours with their friends and consume copious amounts of media, often unchecked and unsupervised. How can we compete with the world and without provoking them; “bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). What follows is not a comprehensive list; however, it is a list of 5 things I have implemented in my life over the years and has proved fruitful.
I need to offer a disclaimer here; none of these are possible without being wholly submitted to the Lord Jesus, which is #5. What I mean is, if you desire lasting change, if you desire to bring glory to God and Jesus to other people then one must be submitted to the Lord and committed to an eternal perspective. You must be wholly committed to the discipleship of your children and Biblically speaking it is our job as parents but most importantly it is a fathers God ordained role.
Shut off Auto-Pilot and Fly Right
Fathers, we have got to stop going through life with the auto-pilot engaged. Let me say, I understand. As a full time employee, husband, father, student, church member and more importantly disciple of Christ I know that life can be weighty at times. We should not allow the demands of life to get in the way of discipling our children. If you can give up something that falls into the category of “my desires” then do it. You may not “crash the plane” so to speak but you will have no influence on your child’s spiritual condition.
They need a leader and the Bible makes very clear it is the role of the Father to spiritually lead his family. This cannot be done on auto-pilot. It does take time and involves heart change but change is good. We need to first understand our role: spiritual leaders. If we are called to be spiritual leaders, we need to ensure we are fed spiritually and “dressed like a man ready for action.” This is only accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer, Bible study, and being discipled. Here are a few practical things I do to accomplish this.
Give up on yourself
We were not meant to go about life apart from the power of God that is in Christ Jesus so quit trying. The very foundation of man is a complete dependence to his Creator. Life apart is meaningless and full of anxiety. Therefore, understand who you are in Christ, you are a son of God. Galatians 4:6-7 says
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." A son inherits all that the Father has and we are joint heirs in Christ.
Plead with God to change your heart.
Pray to the God of Heaven to give you a new heart. If you need to see this in action read Ezekiel 37. See yourself lying dead there in the valley. Dry bones, no life and see what the Lord does. God is in the business of changing hearts and He will change yours.
See your child as God intended
A heritage unto the Lord. They belong to God most High and He has entrusted you with them for such a time as this. God never gets an address wrong, He never makes a mistake and He did not with you nor your children.
Instruct Your Children with Family Devotionals
As joint heirs in Christ we must instruct our children in the very same. Family devotionals sounds tough but it is not. This can simply involve:
If children are old enough I encourage them to offer a prayer request. Sometimes a little guidance is all they need. You would be surprised at what is going on in their little hearts when they share their requests. It is also a perfect opportunity for you to work through John 14:13 “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”
This can involve a lesson, a book or a book of the Bible dependent on the appropriateness of age.
Aim to Change the Heart, not the Surface Level Behavior
This concept is so important and it is Biblical. The Bible is very clear that our behavior, (e.g. what we say, do, think and act) is a result of a sinful heart. We must aim to change the heart of both our children and ourselves. Without a changed heart you get what I call “circumstantial behavior” that is behavior that only lasts when there is an authority around to enforce it. The Bible likens man to a tree many times, and this tell-tale analogy shows the heart is the problem. In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”
If the fruit is rotting, hanging good fruit on the branches will just be a waste of time, spraying perfume on a dead body doesn’t help. Jesus says in Matthew 23:25-26
“… wash the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean.”
The bad root that is causing the fruit to rot is the heart and it must be addressed. A good book to read on this is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp. Each addresses the importance of heart change, not mere surface level behavior. Tedd Tripp’s book is specific to children but is beneficial to adults. Paul Tripp’s book is more geared toward everyday people who engage in personal ministry.
Lead Your Children
Leading by example is no small feat. It takes a man focused on God as he goes, to lead with grace, mercy, humility and continually get back up after every fall. Your children need to know that it is okay to fail, it is okay to struggle, and it is okay to ask questions. Let’s face it, in life there will be failures; we are not perfect, and sin still remains.
However, when you fail your children need to see repentance and growth. In the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus God forgave our sins, but we still need to repent of sin and seek God’s forgiveness. We need to teach our little ones that sin is not just a tiny wrong committed against another individual; rather it is a great offense to the God of the universe first and foremost.
Second it is an offense to the person whom we/they have wronged. Therefore, when we sin we should seek forgiveness from a Holy God and ensure our heart is submitted to Him. Then and only then can we seek forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Emulate Christ for your children and help them understand that daddies mess up too. It is okay, every mess up is an opportunity to see the changing power of Christ in the heart of fallen sinners.
Crucify Your Flesh and Follow Christ
This is by far the most important step in seeking to live like Christ, lead and love our children. When you became a daddy, God is saying, “take care of this child, teaching him/her all that I have commanded you, and lead them spiritually. For you will give an account of how your lead them.” He knows our failures, fears, responses, and still gave us children to rear for His glory.
As a daddy our desires should be crucified daily and we should seek to follow Christ no matter what. The most ridiculous thing I can do after an “abundant” day at work, and 1 1/2 hours of traffic, is to rely on myself in leading my family. My sinful desires of comfort, “peace and quiet” and whatever else my wicked heart can dream up will overtake me every time unless I am resting in the power of Christ and seeking to follow Him.
I pray when I cross the threshold of my driveway for more grace, mercy, wisdom and a gentle heart as I head to the door. Was my day busy, stressful, cumbersome, agitating, and long, you bet; but God called me to lead my family for His Glory not fulfill my lusts of the flesh. Luke 9:23 — Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”