Archive for October 2012

Is Christianity All About Obeying Commands? Part II

October 7, 2012

This is the second part of an article I published a month ago entitled “Is Christianity All About Obeying Commands? Part I.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)  This is the tender gentle invitation of Christ to the lost.  In many ways for the lost and weary it is “an offer he can’t refuse.”  It is with this in mind that I would like to continue the discussion on the Bible’s commands from the previous post.

Like any good sermon, I will be making three points in this article.  First I will argue that God’s commands are not burdensome.  Secondly, I will examine the core commands of scripture so that we don’t “neglect the weightier matters of the law.”  Finally, following the Spirit is crucial to obeying God.

I.  God’s Commands are Not Burdensome.

I feel like the preacher the night Charles Spurgeon was converted who had little to say, but stuck tenaciously to his text. The first thing to note from the text is that there is a yoke which we must take upon us if we are following Christ.  There are also things which must be learned from Christ.  Christianity is not about setting someone free from the laborious and heavy yoke of Satan to do whatever they would like.  God does command.  The invitation to the weary and heavy laden is to take on the yoke of Christ.

However, in willingly taking on the yoke of Christ, we find rest for our souls.  Christ promises to be a gentle master who is lowly in heart.  This is much different from the slavedriver, Satan, who we served before coming to Christ, and it is contrary to any view of Christ which paints Him as a slavedriver or taskmaster.  While we are called to take on a yoke, in some way it is easy and light.  In Matthew 23:4 Jesus condemns the Pharisees because they “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.”  It would be inconceivable for God to condemn the Pharisees for laying heavy burdens on people, and promise an easy burden to those same people to turn around and require His children to spend their time finding every command out of every principle they can find in scripture.

The passage makes it clear that God’s yoke is easy.  God incarnate uses this as an invitation for people to follow Him.  God does not play bait and switch.  He fulfills His promises.  We however, should be careful that we do not make God’s burden heavier than He intended.  To the extent we require more things of Christians than God does, we are loading people looking for rest with a heavy burden.  When God’s commands seem to be burdensome, we must ask whether the commands are truly from God or if they are extra biblical commands from religious leaders.

II.  What Does God Command?

While there are many individual commands in scripture, it is helpful to look at passages where the Bible identifies the most important commands.

In Micah 6:6-8 the prophet asks “With what shall I come before the Lord?”  “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?”  These are superlatives of things God commanded and seemingly required elsewhere.  The prophet goes on to suggest a much more valuable offering, seemingly pondering maybe God wants what the people around us suggest God wants.  “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”  The answer is a resounding no to those suggestions, and an oft repeated verse.  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Really?  Is that it?  God only requires three things?  Yes fulfilling them takes a lot, but can’t you hear the thankful cry of the person who realizes this truth?  What ease is found in only striving to obey a few commands!

Maybe this is a fluke.  Surely the commands of God can’t be few.  That is just a minor Old Testament prophet.  Maybe… Let’s look at the book of Acts and how the apostles dealt with this issue.  Acts 15 relates the story of the Jerusalem Council.  Following the conversion of many of the Gentiles, men from Judea came around telling the new converts that in order to really be a Christian they must be circumcised.  This caused quite the controversy, and Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem to talk to the apostles and elders about this issue.  Some belonging to the party of the Pharisees argued that Gentile believers must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.  (v.5)  Peter however stands up and retells how God used him to begin bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.  He then reasons against laying the command on the Gentiles by saying, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”  (v.10 and 11)  The council listens to him and as a result decides to send a letter to the Gentile churches with four commands: “To abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”  Make what you want of the four particular laws, the decision was that the Gentile believers should not be burdened with numerous unkeepable laws and they intentionally decided to keep the yoke of the believers light.

Nothing is more burdensome than numerous laws.  Both in Micah and Acts the commands of God are few.  When multitudinous laws are written and imposed, the individual is forced to constantly double check whether his actions violate some law.  Keeping commands few makes the yoke light.  Interestingly as well, Jesus alludes to the importance of the simple commands found in Micah when He refutes the Pharisees.  Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are the “weightier matters of the law” Jesus says the Pharisees neglect when crafting their multitudinous unfollowable laws.  (Matthew 23:23)  God’s commands are intentionally few and simple so that they won’t be burdensome.

III.  The Role of the Holy Spirit

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”  This is the great promise found in John 16:13 following Christ’s promise he would send a Helper, a Helper it was more advantageous for the disciples to have than Christ Himself.  The Bible clearly that the Holy Spirit has a central role in sanctification.  (2 Cor. 3:18, 2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2, Romans 8:4+13, etc…)  If we believe the Holy Spirit will guide us, and sanctify us, we must leave the Him the ability to convict different individuals in different ways.  Martin Luther famously stated at the Diet of Worms “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”  As the Spirit guides and convicts He shows us our sin and leads us into truth.  This is the distinction of the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and repeated in Hebrews.  Arguing that the Holy Spirit tells you to do something contrary to the Bible is absurd.  However, if He does not illuminate and convict He has no purpose.  This is a work performed individually in the heart of the believer, not a special guidance to a “spiritual leader” who then has the authority to tell others to live as the Spirit may have guided them to live.

My Pastor Colby Garman delivered a very helpful sermon on the relationship of the law and the Spirit in his sermon on Romans 7.  In it he argued that while “The Law is good, it cannot achieve growth and personal transformation in righteousness.”  This is the crucial role of the Holy Spirit.

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Romney v. Obama Round 1: Liveblog

October 4, 2012

I figured I would take a cue from Jeremiah Lorrig and put all my thoughts on the debate in one place.  In the middle, I hit my limit on tweets so I switched to facebook.  The change will be clear.  Bill Maher’s tweets are also very enlightening.

You can watch the entire debate here as well.

…and so the games begin #romneyryan2012

Watching @BarackObama I already need drinks… #romneyryan2012#denverdebate

@BarackObama‘s #economicpatriotism sounds like #communism#denverdebate #romneyryan2012

Sound like #communism? RT @TylerStockton: “Economic patriotism”?

#BarackObama and #romneyryan2012 #trickledowngovernment#denverdebate

@BarackObama on the #trickledowngovernment question… Here are the gov programs we need… #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@JoelGrewe He is. He is listing the government programs he wants in#trickledowngovernment

@ElissaRoberson He is answering the #trickledowngovernmentquestion by tellign the government programs he believes in.#denverdebate

Enjoying the free swinging debate format #denverdebate

@BarackObama wants more government and a reduced #deficit#nologic #trickledowngovernment #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

Mitt Romney is being specific and agressive. #denverdebate

RT @cameronetchart: “BTW, I like coal.” -Romney #denverdebate

@BarackObama response to Mitt Romney We’ll we’ll… lets talk about taxes… #denverdebate #ouchIgotsmoked #romneyryan2012

@BarackObama putting people to sleep after @MittRomney blistering attack #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@MittRomney virtually everything he said about my tax plan is inaccurate #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@MittRomney is crushing @BarackObama this isn’t even fair.#denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@MittRomney for me this is about jobs. #denverdebate

@BarackObama trying to out math a well experienced businessman in @MittRomney #epicfail #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@BarackObama Donald Trump joke fell totally flat. #denverdebate

If I had a drink every time @BarackObama said “uh” I would be drunk.#denverdebate

@BarackObama Jim Leher please get me off this topic so I don’t keep getting creamed #denverdebate

@BarackObama says closing loopholes won’t work his friend@TimKaine agrees. #denverdebate #rpv

@MittRomney schooling @BarackObama on #history #denverdebate#romneyryan2012

@MittRomney going forward with the status quo won’t cut it#denverdebate

@MittRomney deficit is a moral issue. immoral to force children to pay for our debt. #denverdebt

@MittRomney speaking about the importance of raising rate of growth to solve the #deficit #denverdebate

@MittRomney is promising to be an agressive spending cutter#deficit #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@BarackObama is on the ropes in this debate. Let’s hope this carries over to the #generalelection #denverdebate #romneyryan2012

@BarackObama distorting @MittRomney plans again #denverdebate

If @MittRomney would campaign as well as he is debating,@BarackObama would be losing the election in a #landslide#denverdebate

@MittRomney the revenue I get is more people working getting higher pay and paying more in tax money. #denverdebate

@BarackObama attacking #bigoil #denverdebate #csdebate

#MyWife to @BarackObama “Well then why didn’t he fix it three years ago.”

@BarackObama “they are using textbooks that are 10 years old.” I did in #homeschool #csdebate anyone else do that? #denverdebate

@MittRomney sure is flowing this debate well. #denverdebate

@MittRomney really preaching the importance of a small federal government and states being lab of democracy #csdebate#denverdebate

@MittRomney the brilliance of our system relies on the people and states not the federal government #denverdebate #csdebate

@BarackObama #socialsecurity is structurally sound. What are you smoking? #csdebate #denverdebate

@BarackObama is getting nailed on twitter for saying that#socialsecurity is structurally sound. #denverdebate #csdebate

@60plusassoc @MittRomney Oh I just thought of one, the president is cutting money from #medicaire #csdebate #denverdebate

#csdebate #denverdebate RT @gwbertsch: RT @guypbenson: Romney primed for this answer on entitlements. Here we go. #Debate

@MittRomney should just say “there you go again” to@BarackObama #ronaldreagain #denverdebate #csdebate

#csdebtate #denverdebate RT @gwbertsch: RT @kirstenpowers10: I’ll be interested to see how media spins this debate as an Obama win.

@60plusassc @BarackObama is quoting #AARP as a credible source again

Then is @BarackObama racist? #cdebate #denverdebate RT@EWErickson: I remember when the left told us “obamacare” was a racist code word.

#csdebate RT @JLorrig: True this: RT @daveweigel: This is like watching a tax law professor debate an investment advice infomercial host

@MittRomney “I just as soon not have the federal government telling me what kind of #healthcare to have.” #csdebate #denverdebate

@MittRomney “I believe in #competition.” #csdebate #denverdebate

@BarackObama is saying #profit like it is a #badword #csdebate#denverdebate

@MittRomney and @BarackObama agree “voters have clear choice on #medicaire” #csdebate #denverdebate

@BarackObama the master of the rhetorical #longpause. not having a #teleprompter will make you think #csdebate #denverdebate

@MittRomney “That’s just not the facts.” #csdebate #denverdebate

@MittRomney #DoddFrank wasn’t thought through properly#denverdebate #csdebate. he actually knows what the bill says.

Jim Leher seems to find warm and fuzzies by finding differences between the candidates #csdebate #denverdebate

@MittRomney fighting for #medicaire by repealing #obamacare.#csdebate #denverdebate @60PlusAssoc

@Jesse_c_estrada #MyWife just made me #peachcobbler to eat as I watch the #csdebate #denverdebate

@MittRomney the role of government is to promote the principles of the constitution and declaration.

“Mr. President, as president you are entitled to your own house and airplane, but not your own facts.” ~Mitt Romney

This was a great debate format. They actually debated.

Everyone including Bill Maher, Joe Trippi, Larry Sabato and others down on Obama’s performance.

I am watching Maddow and she is saying Romney really owned the format.

Maddow and Schultz-“President not properly prepared” “Wasn’t that the president’s job tonight?”

Watch MSNBC Schultz and Maddow are bashing on Obama they are mad at him for his performance. Other MSNBC table member saying Obama lost, and “if he could have gotten a draw they would have put this away.”

MSNBC Reporter asking O’Malley “If you had ten mins to prep Obama for next debate, what would you tell hi to do differently?” Not the kind of questions from someone happy about a big win.

When Matthews is furious with Obama you know he didn’t do well.http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/10/03/chris_matthews_freaks_out_at_obama_after_debate_romney_was_winning.html