In a Hole in the Ground There Lived a Hobbit

The BBC interviewed J.R.R. Tolkien on the show In Their Own Words British Authors in March of 1968.

If you fancy Hobbits and Middle Earth, take a sneak peek.

 

 

 

 
BBC Archival Footage-In Their Own Words British Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien (Part 1):

BBC Archival Footage-In Their Own Words British Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien (Part 2):

Jesus Our Sinless Sacrifice

Christian theology explains in succinct statements that it is Jesus that overcomes sin and death (; 16:20; ). Since it was Jesus who was promised to die for sin, then it is true we cannot die for our own sin. Our sin produces death (), yet we cannot live purely enough in life nor die enough in our death to pay for our sin (). This is humanity under the fall, our sinful flesh.

One theologian explains flesh in the Pauline sense of the word often refers to the actual form of our humanity under the fall, and Scripture asserts that Christ assumed human, fallen, and sinful flesh. “That must mean that the flesh he assumes is not to be thought of in some neutral sense, but as really our flesh. He has come to redeem us, to destroy our sin in human flesh; and therefore he becomes what we are that he might raise us up to where he is.” This is an appeal to the patristic notion of the “wonderful exchange,” whereby Christ becomes what we are so that we may become what he is. Such an understanding necessitates an understanding the Son’s assumption of a fallen human nature. This fallen, sinful flesh is referred to as the “House of Bondage” which Christ’s obedience turned into the “House of God,” the place where God dwells.
In order to make sense of this point we must, along with Herman Ridderbos, insist that ‘in approaching the Pauline doctrine of sin, we must not orient ourselves in the first place to the individual and personal, but to the redemptive-historical and collective points of view.’ In light of such Pauline texts as ; ; , and , we must view sin as the supra-individual mode of existence in which one shares before we see it as an individual act. By viewing sin in this Pauline way, we can more fully see how it was that Christ could ‘be sin for us’ (), that is, assume a sinful human nature, and yet remain perfectly sinless.

John Owen explains it this way:

The body is not only doomed to death by reason of original sin, as death entered upon all on that account; but the body must be brought to death, that sin may be rooted out of it. Sin has taken such a close, inseparable habitation in the body, that nothing but the death of the body can make a separation. The body must be dead because of sin. … Here lies the great mystery of the grave under the covenant of grace, and by virtue of the death of Christ. … A secret virtue shall issue out from the death of Christ unto the body of a believer laid in the grave, that shall eternally purify it, at its resurrection, from every thing of sin.

Be not afraid to enter into darkness: as there is no sting in death, so there is no darkness in the grave. It is but lying so long in the hands of the great Refiner [Jesus}, who will purge, purify, and restore you. Therefore, lie down in the dust in peace.

Owen explains elsewhere:

We cannot die for sin. Our hope and faith is, in and through him, that we shall never die for sin. No mortal man (unbelieving person) can be made like unto Christ in suffering for sin. Those that undergo what he underwent, because they were unlike him, must go to hell and be made more unlike him to eternity.

And this:

 

Even death itself brings a terror with it, that nothing can conquer but faith; I mean, conquer duly. He is not crowned, that does not overcome by faith. It is only to be done through the death of Christ, he “freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (). There is no deliverance that is true and real, from a bondage-frame of spirit [with reference] to death, but by faith in Christ.


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Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. (ESV)


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55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)


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14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (ESV)


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15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV)


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23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23 (Listen

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23 (Listen)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)


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For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (ESV)

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)


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For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (ESV)


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who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (ESV)

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)


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15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (ESV)

Abortion – What’s At Stake?

No one has a right to life if others deem them inferior and unwanted. No one is viewed as made in the image of God.

Rosaria Butterfirld writes, “And then, one day during worship, we sang and it hit me between the eyes. Here was the line of my undoing: “And peoples yet uncreated shall praise and magnify the LORD” (). I got it: abortion is not a right or an entitlement. Abortion steals praise from God by denying image-bearers the opportunity to live through and for him. Abortion despises and attacks and destroys the image of God.”

TorranceQuotes_unborn_child

What is at stake is the systemic eradication of the being and nature of the unborn child. The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child: A Response to Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse-Selling by Thomas F. Torrance.


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102:1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the Lord builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you. (ESV)


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18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord: (ESV)

unChristian Christianity

Christianity has been lied about by Christians to the unChristian world. Christians have let the unChristian world believe being a Christian means you are merely moral — not repentant sinners in need of continual grace only found in Jesus. Stop doing cultural sinful practices and replace them with something culturally right, and voila! You’re a Christian. Throw in a few Bible verses and “thank you, Jesus!” and you’ve passed the litmus test.

Be Republican, and you’re in the club.

The moral majority was all the rage in the 80’s. Christianity was a cultural phenomenon, the in vogue culture club that all the cool kids were a part.

In the 21st Century, however, Christianity has lost its savor, its being Christian of its -anity.

Christianity has diminished in America because the unChristian world sees no cultural benefits to outweigh the cross it would have to bear by taking on the label.

Christianity that merely promotes (or more to the point, adds to believing in Jesus) certain hair styles, clothing, food, drinks, music and sub-cultural trends (or lack thereof) to be a Christian still sends people to hell in a hand basket.

And the unChristian world is telling Christians, “the Emperor has no clothes.”

This sort of Christianity has left those seeking water still thirsty (). As a result, the unChristian world no longer presupposes religious belief and finds traditionalism to be repressive. Why should people believe in a God and “do right things” when they can do right things of their own making?

The world does not need a to-do list. Nor does the world need a do-not-do list. The world needs Christ. True Christians, not culturally savvy people who use the word Christian as a rung on a ladder of making our best life now. Notice Paul says “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” to those who impose a to-do list onto believing in Jesus. That, too, is fleshly (ff; ff).

It is only when the chaff and dross of cultural Christianity gets burned up by persecution and tribulation that True Christians will shine brighter in the midst of a dark, unChristian world.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. If it were, His servants would fight to prevent His arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now His kingdom is from another place () where righteousness dwells and its fruit is displayed (ff).

The unChristian world needs true Christians who love God and love others as themselves (), who walk in the power of the Holy Spirit (ff), who go the extra mile (), and speak the Truth in love (); Not the Cultural Christianity of a country club.

Cultural Christians will never stay Christian when the times get desolate and persecution becomes reality. The unChristian world does not need Cultural Christians.

The unChristian world needs Christian Christians — Christians who claim Christ.


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13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. (ESV)

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. (ESV)

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (ESV)

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30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (ESV)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (ESV)


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38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (ESV)


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15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (ESV)

Christmas, A Cure for the Pain of the World

Defenses of Christmas aren’t much better than the attacks. Remember: cynics get intelligence, believers are good hearted, dimwits. Defending anything based on religion, such as Christmas, must rely on feeling and not intellect, says our culture. Christmas is good, because it is about family, as if family is an unmixed blessing for most people. Christmas is good, because it is about “belief,” especially in the spirit of Santa. Since Santa does not exist, and recent holiday movies demand we believe in him, this seems like a call to madness. Christmas is also supposed to be about the “child within,” but in a culture in dire need of grownups this seems dangerous as well. Jesus once said to be like a little child regard to humility, but irrational Christmas marketers aren’t saying that. Christmas seems to involve believing in the unbelievable in order to regress to childishness.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God and Man. If true, it is [a pivotal] moment of history. If false, it is useless. Best reason and best experience argue that it is true. My heart bears witness to His gentle Voice. My mind demands that I accept the truth of history. This moment when Heaven and Earth were brought together is the answer to the pain of our existence and that is the very problem with both cynicism about Christmas and most defenses of the holiday.

The cynics see a world of pain and embrace it. Chaos is basic to their vision of the world, but their very rationality denies this view. The defenders act as if platitudes can solve problems. Warm hearts are not enough against cold reality.

Christmas is for a world of pain. Christmas is good news, because it shows God comes down to Earth and saves us. Such news makes merry, but remains realistic. It is for sin, but about redemption. It denies nothing about human hurts, but does not rest content in them.

~John Mark Reynolds

What Wondrous Love!

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.”

Recommended Reading

We need a passion for Christ that cannot be quenched, a passion that is acted upon not merely fondly thought about and rooted for.

I am currently reading Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will. And while I am thinking hard about a passion for Christ and acting upon it, I read this:

There comes a point where you have to get tired of being inspired. We have entire industries that flourish on the idea of ‘inspiration.’ Songs to get you pumped up. Movies to make you feel heroic. Sappy Christian stories to ‘inspire’ you. At some point you have to get tired of reading books and watching movies about people who do interesting, courageous things, and begin to do those things yourself. Or let the dream die.

You need to read Dangerous by Caleb Bislow. It is, well, inspiring. He makes me want to go against the grain of conventional thought in missions.

Lots of praying to do.

And in our doing and acting on our passion for Christ (or Christ’s passion in us acting upon, in, and through us), as Christians, we need to know what other religious sects believe. Not everyone who claims Christ are true believers or claiming the true Christ – or denying Christ for that matter. With that said, we need to know what others believe. Here are three religious sects you should be aware of and know what they believe so you can share Jesus effectively.

Facts on the Mormons by John Ankerberg.

Facts on the jehovah’s Witnesses by John Ankerberg.

The Facts on Islam by John Ankerberg

Every so often I ask people questions. Not because I don’t have answers. I do have answers to these questions. But I like to get other people’s perspectives. Some answers are what I call Jesus Juke answers – you know the answers that spiritually trump all other answers – which drives me nuts. It’s like people don’t realize these other books and resources are good gifts of God through people writing books and resources to help, as well – so we can better prepare and think rightly about Scripture so we are prepared properly for the battle of engaging others for Christ. But I digress…

The first question I asked some friends:

1) What are your top 3 books that have helped you most in apologetics / sharing the Gospel to people?

Slightly different, although, very much related to my last question:

2) What books / resources have you used that prepared you to share the Gospel with specific people groups? (i.e. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc…)

I will share some of the answers I am given.

The Most Important Lessons Children Should Learn Before They’re Adults

1) That Children Would Fear the Lord


“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments….”


“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with >all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”


“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”


“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”


“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”


“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”


“then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”


“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”


“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,”

 

2) That Children Would Love God and Others as They Love Themselves


“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”


“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


“And he answered, “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.”


“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”


“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”


“‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

–39
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

–31
“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”


“So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”


“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well …”

3) That Children Would “One Another” Others
Greet one another – , ; ;
Comfort one another –
Forgive one another –
Build one another up – ;
Serve one another –
Bear one another’s burdens –
Encourage one another –
Meet with one another –
Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward one another – ;
Receive (welcome) one another as Christ received us –
Care for one another –
Minister one to another –
Show hospitality to one another –
Pray for one another –

 

And I pray we adults may learn these, too.


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that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (ESV)


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28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (ESV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (ESV)


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30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)


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The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
is riches and honor and life. (ESV)


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33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor. (ESV)


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23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm. (ESV)


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10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! (ESV)


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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (ESV)


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then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (ESV)


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27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death. (ESV)


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10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (ESV)


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17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children, (ESV)


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30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (ESV)


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37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)


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27 And he answered, “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.” (ESV)


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Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (ESV)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (ESV)


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18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (ESV)


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19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


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37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)


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30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (ESV)


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27 And he answered, “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.” (ESV)


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For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


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14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


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If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (ESV)

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (ESV)

20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (ESV)


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12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. (ESV)


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14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (ESV)


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18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (ESV)


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Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (ESV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)


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13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (ESV)


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Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV)


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25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (ESV)


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10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (ESV)


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Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (ESV)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV)

Rule Keeping in a City of Elder Brothers

I live in a very Elder Brother kind of city.

Sure, there are ever-growing pockets of Younger Brother elements here, though.

But for the moment, my focus is this Elder Brother element.

I am, of course, reflecting on the parable of the two sons in .

Much of the focus people have on this passage is on the Younger Brother. Rightly so, mind you, but it’s not the whole of the focus we should have.

It should be obvious the Younger Brother was only after the Father’s stuff. He wasn’t interested in the Father himself (v.12). The Younger Brother threw off all of the Father’s rules in order to gain the Father’s stuff. But notice the Father was gracious, merciful, and loving to the Younger Brother, in that, the Father came out to meet the Younger Brother (v. 20). The Father loved the Younger Brother and entreated him to come.

What might be less obvious: the Elder Brother did the same thing only in the opposite way. The Elder Brother kept all of the Father’s rules in order that he might get his Father’s stuff (v. 29). However, the Father came out to the Elder Brother to entreat him to come (v. 28).

The Father is Good to His sons.

The point I want to bring out: Rule keeping does not necessarily equal true spirituality or true Christ-likeness.

Forcing others to keep rules for the sake of rule-keeping does not discipleship make.

Forcing others to keep rules does not heal those who are hurting. Forcing others to keep rules does not settle a trouble heart. It does not remove fear.

In fact, since rule-keeping is performance-based, fear of man will be heightened. It does not produce the fear of God.

The song, Start Over says,

“To the broken hearted that wished that they’d never been born, never been torn, never sinned, never disobeyed, I know you think there’s no hope, but that ain’t true, I know you feelin’ regret
(Like I) brought this all on myself
(Like I) messed it up big time, and this time I don’t deserve God’s help
(Thinking) how can God forgive me after knowin’ what I did (can He?)
After knowin’ that I hid from Him, and I stayed away and backslid
Jesus came for the sick (so true)
Jesus came for the weak (amen)
Jesus came to give good news and have set the captives free (amen)
Jesus came for the poor (amen)
Jesus came with the keys
Jesus came to remove the chains so the prisoners are released.

Rule keeping does not do this. It binds prisoners to what other people expect them to do. And when the rules are broken or not lived up to, shame and guilt rule.

Hurting people do not need rules. They need the Savior. They need Jesus.

What do I mean by all of this?

South Carolina, but more specifically, Greenville is supposedly the buckle of the Bible Belt. But Greenville has become a city of Elder Brothers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loving, kind, generous, gracious, Christ-like people here who reach out to those in need.

These Christ-like individuals are the exception, not the rule.

As a result of this Christian bubble, or better stated, Moralist Bubble, aka Elder Brother Bubble, we have failed to transform our culture.

Case in point: South Carolina has been ranked number one in domestic violence, more specifically men killing women. In the nation. Again.

Not to mention the number of sex offenders.

“See, His love is deeper than the ocean floor
Run to His arms like an open door
God the Father sent the Son
So men can come and be free and ain’t gotta run no more
Come to me, all who are weary; with heavy burdens, I’ll give you rest
Separated you from the sin, as far as the east is from the west
Thrown in the sea of forgetfulness
What sin? What offense?
And when them waves come crashing in, I’ll calm the winds in your defense
So, whatever it is that you’ve done
He put that punishment on His Son
You’ll never come under His condemnation… Satan and his accusations
So, dry your eyes, lift up your head
Hallelujah! God is not dead!
Plus He gave us His peace, and He took our guilt on the cross instead
Took our place and now we embrace
A clean slate with the eyes of faith
We know unfailing love, unfailing love, it’s not too late, start over.”

We don’t need more rule keeping and putting people on probation which is unwaveringly inept and powerless to change lives. We need the cross.

15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)

Hope Deferred

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” ().

The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to spiritual deadness, pride and strife and ministry ineffectiveness.
— Tim Keller, “Preaching in a Post-Modern City”

Recently, I attended a service with another local body of believers in PA. They were friendly. The Pastor demonstrated a loving and “pastoral” heart for his people. I believe at this particular service I attended, he was shorthanded and had to fulfill not only the preaching responsibilities but also the music portion, as well. I was looking forward to being challenged by God’s Word and pointed to my Savior.

The Pastor directed our attention to the verse,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life ().

My mind raced to possible connections to the Gospel from the first time he read the verse. “Ohh!! This is going to be good! Something I need to hear!” This hope, he said, is not like “I hope it doesn’t rain.” It is a desire for something that will most surely come to pass. It is more like, “I hope to go on vacation next week!”

Suppose I am at the grocery store, and I say, “I hope to get to the cashier soon.” And then there is a person in front of me who has 16 items rather than “15 items or less” AND there is someone who has a product with no bar code on it so a price check is requested. AND there is someone else who drops a glass jar with the words echoing throughout the store, “clean up at register 4!” (ok – I added that last part. You had to hear his descriptions of events). But this is what the word deferred means. It is a delay in receiving what we hope for.

This delay in receiving what we hope for makes the heart sick. I hope to get to the cashier, but all of these things are delaying me! At this point, the pastor described what happened when he was very sick a few weeks ago. He wanted to watch TV, so he got up from his bed (already weak from being sick) and crawled toward the living room. He tired out and rested in the hallway. After a short while, he began to crawl again toward the living room. After a few delays of a sick and weakened body, he finally made it to the couch where he could watch TV.

“Sickness will come!” he exclaimed. “Expect it!” He admonished. “Get up and keep going!” he exhorted.

He then briefly touched on the last portion of the verse, “a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”. When we hope for things and circumstances delay our obtaining them, keep going! Keep working to obtain it! Just like he wanted to watch TV but was delayed because he was sick and weak.

At the end of his sermon, he pleaded for people to come to Christ. He said something to the effect, “If you have not trusted Jesus as your personal Savior, please do so before it is too late!”

One weekend I watched a children’s television program while Owen was playing in the living room. Every so often, when something peculiar happened on the program, he would stop what he was doing and watch. On this particular episode, one of the puppet characters was dejected and lost all confidence of doing anything. The whole program’s point was, “have confidence in yourself because you can do it! You can do anything you put your mind to! Believe in yourself!”

The point of this child’s program was, in essence, “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and keep going!”

Now, this pastor was exegetically accurate and precise. He conveyed the meaning of the verse fairly well. He was not boring. He was engaging. His love for the people of which he is Undershepherd was compassionately displayed.

But there was no GOSPEL! The pastor’s main point conveyed was, “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and keep going!”

We may be exegetically accurate and precise. And we may convey the meaning of the text as the original hearers (possibly) understood it, but when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road, it’s still moralism. It’s a promotion of self-salvation. At the very core, both teachings are saying, “Jesus’ finished work is not enough! Go and do! Save yourself!!”

For a preacher of the Gospel, it is sad there was no preaching of the Gospel.

Note: This was originally posted in 2008.


Listen

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (ESV)


Listen

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (ESV)