Friday, June 29, 2018

A. C.U.R.E.

The famous (or infamous, depending on your view) theological acronym TULIP has for centuries served the Church well in summarizing the basic tenets of Calvinistic soteriology. It arose from the disputations the Arminian school of thought offered back in the 1600's. The Calvinists carried the day at the Synod of Dort (the house was stacked) and walked away from that debate with what became known as TULIP: the Arminians walked away ridiculed with nothing but the truth.

There have been some good offerings for a similar acronym for Arminian soteriology (like FACTS), but I have never found them satisfactory because I didn't feel they were clearly descriptive. So, for the ailment of inexactitude, I'd like to offer a cure.

A.= Absolute Inability: mankind is so incapacitated by spiritual death, that none are able to turn themselves to God apart from the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit.
C.= Conditional Election: God has chosen to save all who trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
U.= Unlimited Atonement: the blood of Christ was shed for the sins of the entire world, and anyone who will can avail themselves of its effects through faith.
R.= Resistable Grace: The Holy Spirit's efforts at graciously influencing the sinner can be resisted by the sinner.
E.= Extinguishable Faith: the faith that the Holy Spirit's gracious ministrations made possible can be lost or shipwrecked by the person who had believed at one time.

I think this is a little more clearly descriptive than the FACTS acronym, especially for those who believe in the possibility of apostasy (and it doesn't have to be shared with a toy convention). It sure would be nice to have something as communicative as TULIP among those of us who actually got our soteriology right!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Faith Versus Fear

"For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me." Job 3:25 (ESV)

I've often told my congregation that the opposite of faith, at least in the active sense, is not unbelief but fear. Fear is the electromagnetic pulse that disables faith. How many times in the Bible is a divine encounter or a mission assignment prefaced by the encouragement, "do not be afraid?" 65, at least! The faith-stifling affects of fear can't be minimized and should not be ignored.

Fear is the Devil's calling card, his MO. It is his means of controlling the herd and driving it to the slaughterhouse. If the Devil can induce fear in people, he's got them. Like a venomous spider's strike immobilizes prey so it can be eaten at a more convenient time, so the apprehension and terror the Devil inspires allows him to throw his victims in his satchel at his leisure. Though it's completely speculative, I've always wondered whether or not he said something to Adam and Eve to make them hide from God in the bushes.

Fear of punishment, fear of death, fear of loss or failure--the Devil has game at any level and with any kind of fear. I cannot prove it factually (other than in Job's case), but fear, even secretly held in the breast, seems to be a harbinger of bad things to come. I've known people that wear their fear as a badge of honor, as if it proves they care. It only proves that they scare. Fear will not deliver us from any unfortunate end, but it sure seems able to deliver us to those ends.

Faith on the other hand, portends good things to those that possess it. Faith in God can move a mountain or calm the storm at sea. Faith receives healingwelcomes the promise of God, and moves the faithful to act. Nothing is impossible for one who has faith! Fear clamps chains upon the unbelieving, whereas faith frees the soul to lay hold of God with a grip that holds even through the passage of death.

The truth is that if we have laid hold of God through faith, we have nothing to fear at all, not even fear itself.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Death Be Not Proud

Death is said to be natural. It isn't. I know everything dies--bugs, trees, ocelots, and us--it's part of life as we know it. The struggle to avoid death, and the ultimate succumbing to it, are foundational to the naturalistic explanation of how life develops and species emerge. Yet, deep inside my heart, I hate death and chafe against its imposition.

And it is an imposition. God, the Creator, by revelation and definition doesn't dieweaken, decay, rest, rust, or turn to dust. All creation is an expression of who and what he is, so death doesn't fit! How can it be baked in the cake? The fact is that it's not: it's imposed supernaturally, as a curse from God.

The natural, created state of human beings was everlasting life. Sin is what brought death and all of us alike suffer from it. I think that despite the marring of God's image within humankind due to the curse on sin, deep inside, most of us feel that same chafing at death's imposition that I do. It doesn't feel right that it all should end with a breath. No matter how long we've lived in its shadow, it still catches up to us too soon.

I wish there was some way to fight that which is never satisfied; to yell, "That's enough!" and have it cease. If translated into some strange, spiritual dimension into a spectator's seat observing the battle between the living and the Grim Reaper, I would hiss at his every advance. I would boo at all of his progress. On particularly tragic days
, like a crazed soccer fan, I'd rush the field hoping to beat him with my own big stick.

But wait a minute... I do have a big stick and in the here and now! 

God came from heaven, took on human form, hung on that stick, died on it, and then rose from the grave victorious over it. Then he handed the power of that stick to us. Jesus defanged the hated beast and unstung the bee, and handed the victory to you and me. For all who trust in Jesus and what he did on that stick, what was natural is natural again.

Existence never ends, even if life does. For those trusting in Christ neither existence nor life end. Still, we must all cross over that dark threshold and chafe at the loss we feel as we and those we love die. Yet, our grief is not like the world's, for in the midst we find an overwhelming, inexpressible joy knowing that the Lion has risen and death works backwards

So, my friend, restore the natural order that was intended by God through embracing interjected supernatural means--put all your hope in Christ and live forever!