Sunday, January 23, 2005

Whose Morality

A man I correspond with asked me a question about our responsibility as Christians with respect to voting, especially as it relates to issues that seem to be forcing our opinions on others. God has given us as Christians certain commandments and principles to guide our lives, but should we impose these on others through our vote? This morning, in a message on respecting life, our pastor mentioned a couple of passages that caught my attention. The first is in Romans 13 and speaks about the reason for respect and obedience to the government: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” The second passage is from I Peter 2:13, 14 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”

Even though the pastor wasn’t making this particular point, I began to think about the fact that in both passages, the job of the government is to oppose evil. The problem we have in our culture is that no one agrees as to whose definition of evil should be followed. Is murder evil? Certainly virtually all people would say it is. When we ask the same question about homosexuality or abortion or gambling, the number of people who say these are evil varies widely. But we as Christians are obligated to accept God’s definition of evil, are we not? It is God who told us the purpose of government in these verses and it is “evil” as God defines it that must be opposed and “good” as God defines it that must be established.

In our day, the concept of absolutes has virtually disappeared. If the legislature or Supreme Court makes something right, then we assume it is right. We must remember that the absolutes are given by God and not by us or our institutions.

Therefore I believe the answer to the young man’s question is that in our voting we should vote in favor of those candidates and those resolutions that stand for the right and against the evil as God defines it. In many cases this will impose a morality on our society that not everyone agrees with. But if it is right in God’s eyes then we will have served Him well by providing ourselves with a government that accomplishes the purposes for which He designed it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

CNN Program

I saw a program the other day on CNN about Evangelicals in America. Did any of the rest of you see it? I think they are trying to find out about this voting block that re-elected the President. They focused on one representative family and talked mostly to the daughter and the mother. I can’t remember if there was a father in the home. There was a brother, but he didn’t have much to say. I was thinking about what the young girl said and how she said it. I don’t think there was much wrong with the actual things she said, but I think the focus was wrong and I think that many of us make the same mistake. I am going to try to put my thoughts into words. In response to the reporters questions, many of the things she said were statements such as, “Yes, Jesus is the only way. If you don’t accept Him as your personal Savior, you will spend eternity in hell.” “I’m a Christian. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was four.”

The reporter treated all of this as rather narrow and even some other “clergy” that they had on said that we are sending out the message that we are right and all others are wrong – that it is our way or no way.

Now I’m not disagreeing with what the girl said and I am not questioning her salvation. Nor am I questioning the fact that there is only one way. But the message that came through is that we think we are right and the way we interpret the Bible is the only way, etc. Even though there was some gospel presented in all of this, what was missing it seemed to me is that the gospel is the good news from God. It is not ours. We didn’t make it up. Everybody in the world thinks that their religion is right and their philosophy is the right way to look at things. No where in all of this presentation was there anything about our great offense against God and that He in mercy is reaching out to save people that would otherwise be lost. It is coming across as if you don’t agree with us you’re lost. It is almost coming across as though it is their rejection of our way that makes them lost. Whereas is should be coming across that we are all lost except that God has provided a way of escape. The wrath of God abides on those who haven’t trusted Christ. God is angry with the wicked every day. I think we can do a better job of wording the gospel message and our testimonies without watering it down in any way. Of course there is only one way! Of course if someone tries to come to God another way he will be lost. We can’t word it in a way that will avoid offense because the Gospel will cause offense – so I’m not trying to do that. But I’d like it to be clearer as to what people are accepting or rejecting. They are not accepting my interpretation or my belief. They are accepting or rejecting the offer of an offended God who in His mercy and kindness asks people to trust Him for their salvation.
Any thoughts or comments?

Willing to be willing

Scripture tells us that it is God that is at work in us both to will and to do of this good pleasure. Sometimes, when I’m battling with some sinful attitude or practice, it is more a problem with the desire to change than the power to actually make the change. When we pray for God’s help in such times, it seems to me we could start with asking for a change of the will. We need to be willing to be made willing.

My Dad's Bible

I was reading my dad’s Bible the other day and came upon some notes that he wrote related to II Cor 13:4 which says, “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.”

His notes are as follows:

Because of II Cor 13:4 I need to pray daily:

1. By faith I apprehend and trust in a perfect Christ and His perfect work – but I do so with an imperfect faith. I pray that God will help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

2. Pray in trust that God will work in you (me) both to will and to do of His good pleasure – Phil 2:13

3. As I wait in prayer before God, I need to confess the love of whatever sin I may have succumbed to as well as the fact that I have fallen.

4. Daily I need to reaffirm my comprehensive choice, solemnly made before God to live in the NEW nature and refuse to live in the OLD.

5. Daily in prayer, I need to ask God to make real in experience the fact of Rom 6:14 “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”

6. Daily in prayer, I need to ask God to “Gospelize” and spiritualize my obedience.

7. Daily I need to plead: “Lord strengthen me mightily by thy spirit in the inner man against temptations that daily come my way.

8. Daily I should review important matters for prayer – especially those for whom I have promised to pray.

He closes with the words from the hymn Not What These Hands Have Done

Not what these hands have done can save a guilty soul
Not what this toiling flesh has borne can make the spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God.
Not all my prayers and sighs or tears can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, oh Christ can ease the weight of sin.
Thy blood alone, O lamb of God can give me peace within.
I bless the Christ of God I rest on love divine.
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.

Notes by Rev. Gerald J. Tuinstra


I’ve been reading a book by Eusebius. He lived in the 300’s and wrote the first history of the Christian Church. What makes it very interesting is that he lived very close in time to the time of the apostles and those who heard them directly.

He tells of Ignatius of Antioch who was ultimately martyred by being devoured by wild animals in Rome. Ignatius wrote a letter to the church in Rome requesting that they not deprive him of his longed-for hope by asking that he be released from martyrdom. He wrote:

From Syria to Rome, I am fighting with wild animals on land and sea night and day, chained to ten leopards—a troop of soldiers—whom kindness makes even worse. Their shameful deeds increase my discipleship, but this does not justify me. May I benefit from those wild beasts that are ready for me, and I pray that they are prompt. I will coax them to devour me quickly, not as with some whom they have been afraid to touch. If they are unwilling, I will force them to do it. Pardon me, but I know what is best for me; now I am starting to be a disciple. May I envy nothing seen or unseen in gaining Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross, struggles with beasts, tearing bones apart, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, and tortures of the Devil come upon me, if only I may attain to Jesus Christ!


And I thought I new what discipleship was! May this short excerpt encourage all of us to be all that we can be for Christ our savior.


In our Sunday School class we have been discussing Peter’s experience in walking on the water. Yesterday it all of a sudden dawned on me that when life seems tumultuous in many areas at the same time, I sometimes become panicky about the fact that tings seem out of control. I realized that when I have this response it is because I am looking at the waves rather than at Christ. I need to purposefully change my focus. Rather than looking at the circumstances I need to look at Christ. When I see Him walking serenely along, not upset or bothered by the storms of life, it gives me the right perspective. God says that all the nations as are as a drop in the bucket. All the furor going on in the world is all contained in that little drop and is of no serious concern to God in the sense that it does not frustrate Him or make Him think that all of His plans are about to be thwarted. We serve a great God and I am thankful for His peace.

Passion of Jesus Christ

I’ve been reading a book by John Piper called “The Passion of Jesus Christ”. An excerpt from chapter 22 is worth noting:

But what is the ultimate good in the good news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel. For example, salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if it only gives relief from guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God but doesn’t bring fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage but doesn’t bring us to God. Adoption is not good news if it only puts us in the Father’s family but not in his arms.

This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart juswt because we want to escape hell. That’s a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn’t take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God’s wrath, or the inheritance of God’s world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don’t need to be born again to want these things.

The evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. I Peter 3:18