Acceptable sins

It is becoming obvious, and perhaps was before in my life but then forgotten, that there are several sins that are accepted among Christians. Now, obviously these will not apply equally to all Christians, and different Christians will have different sins they have accepted. This may lead to a series of posts as one or another occurs to me, but recently I have considered a sin that I had accepted and still am tempted.

This is digital theft. You see it on the DVDs before the feature, that it is illegal to copy it. It is illegal to download it. Internet piracy is still piracy.  Yet, among Christians this is something that seems to be acceptable.

Perhaps it is because we are not physically taking something from a shelf and placing it in our coats that we have detached the idea from theft. However, regardless of how it feels to us, there are facts to consider.

1. It is illegal. Despite the irregularity and variety of consequences, the argument for free interchange and sharing, the high chance of not being caught, it is still illegal. Not only in the US, but abroad. Efforts are being made for international cooperation, and a treaty has been worked on, but regardless of any progress made or not, it is still illegal. It is against the laws as instituted by our government, and as we are to be good citizens, and obey every ordinance of man, we should comply with these laws.

Some reply, “If they are too stupid to block it, then I might as well do it.” When did righteousness ever depend on someone else being smart, or genius? Yes, Ipods, MP3 players, computers, etc. all work regularly at preventing this theft, but this should not be needed for Christians.

2. It is immoral. This is an argument based on what is actually being done, rather than on the laws involved. This argument is different from the previous. While I did conclude by ending with our moral obligation to the law, there is a moral obligation regarding the actual act, or lack thereof. This is a fight that is constantly being waged between “hackers” and anyone with intellectual property.

Hackers are of the mind that anything should be free and shared. They believe that open information and data is better. (In a general comparative sense, they are computer hippie.) When data or information is restricted, kept secret, or hidden, they go about whatever means they can to obtain that information. When the restricted world of information exploded into a new universe, things like pirating movies became easier. It is not that it is a new crime, just a different way of accomplishing it. Many Christians would not find a black-market dvd vendor on the street and buy from him, but within our home, at our personal computer, we will download that movie we have no rights to.

Consider why this is immoral. It is not my idea, work, nor production. I have no claim to ownership of it. It belongs to someone else. If I want something that is belongs to someone else, I must pay them for it. Whether it is goods or services, I pay for something someone else has that I would like to have. The fact that this item is not made with physical pieces, but consists of data that can be broken into zeros and ones does not give us the right to take it. It is still not ours.

People worked for it, and we are stealing from them. When someone makes a craft to sell for their lively-hood, it takes from their lively-hood to take that craft without payment. The movie industry, the software industry, the photo industry, the music industry, etc. are all occupations. Whether you agree with what they produce, or think they are over paid is not an issue. Christians say “Well, they get paid plenty anyway.” That does not pertain to the issue. The issue is, are you stealing, or do you have a rightful claim to it? Just because someone else posts it online, that does not give you a rightful claim. If someone stole the craft and then offered it to you, it is still stolen goods, and if you are aware of it, you would not take it. (I hope)

3. It affects the industry. Regardless of what you think it is doing, it is inevitable that it will impact the industry. Software companies must charge more to those customers following the law because, of their potential users, half will steal the program. Movie companies sales must be predicted lower than the actual amount of people who would watch it, for those other will steal the movie.

Unfortunately, I must profess my guilt in the matter. As a computer major, and a regular PC/internet user, I have found myself lured in. I have wanted to see the movie before it came out. I have wanted that particular song, but didn’t want to pay for the CD. It is something that time and convenience made available to me, and I made the wrong decision.

I thank God for my wife who reminded me that this was not right. Where my conscience had been seared, hers was still tender. It was hard on me to see the disappointment in her when I was participating in something that didn’t even phase me. Praise the Lord for the help He gives to bring us back in line with Him!

Karma or Christianity?

I was in a debate the other day when it was mentioned multiple times that Christianity cannot be Karma. Within the context of the conversation, Karma was being used in the more general usage that if you do something good it will come back to you, and if you do something bad it will come back to you. The statement was made with the presupposition that the world’s view of Karma could not be what is taught in the Bible.

Karma however, aside from the actual eastern religious tendencies it involves, seems to center on balance. When you do right, right will be done to you. When you do wrong, wrong will be done to you. Someone mentioned the principle that if you cast your bread upon many waters it will return unto you. And the thought was negative.

The opposing thought was that God blesses no matter what. Not common grace, rain-on-just-and-unjust-type blessing. The question was phrased in the negative (to be fair, it was a question): “If I do not live perfectly will I miss out on blessings I could have had, had I lived right?” The implied answer being argued at one point was no. We would not miss out on any blessings due to our actions in life.

The Bible says that which a man soweth he will also reap. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

“to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”

“He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity”

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” — Not just a proverb now, but a NT principle on giving to missions

“Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10…interesting because it has a winky face at the end of the verse.)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Is this Karma? Or is this Christianity? This is Christianity. We reap what we sow. There is a principle of cause and effect that God has placed in the world, but this isn’t even that. God is not mocked. It is not nature, or nature’s laws that say this. It is not a force of balance in the universe that brings these things to pass. God is not mocked. Whatever you sow, you will reap. Though the context for some of these implies eternal reaping, the principle is not just eternal. It is a principle of daily life.

James 1, though it did not settle it, certainly quieted the discussion. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God…Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering…Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” To get this wisdom, we must ask in faith. There is a requirement/condition upon our reception of this wisdom from God. Not that God can’t or doesn’t give wisdom to whomever and however He chooses, but He said this man will not receive anything of Him. This answers the question if we will receive the same blessings regardless of how we live. Further, the Bible bears this out in other places.

We live right because we love God, but the Bible also sets forth the principles of reward for doing right. Heaven is not to be our sole goal for getting saved, nor is escape from Hell, but both are arguments from Scripture to be saved. Punishment and reward are both aspects of life and the afterlife, and these depend on what we do with the life God has given us. Certainly God can and does bless regardless of things in our lives, yet, we also see a principle of reaping what we sow. This is not Karma, but Christianity.

hiding sin

There is a brand of religious fanaticism that refuses to acknowledge wrong within its ranks. Rather, it hides it, often by punishing the innocent. For years, the Catholic church has been revealed as one such denomination, but certainly, those among our circles should not be so naive to suppose it does not happen among us.

It was not quite a year since there was national news regarding the rape of a church girl by a fundamentalist baptist deacon. The pastor(s?) told her mother to send her away to another state while she was pregnant, and then she had to give up her child. While she was away, staying with a prominent figure, she had to write an apology letter to the wife of the deacon for seducing him. The deacon was not removed from the church (I’m not sure if he was even removed from being deacon.), yet prior to being forced to leave the state, this young lady had to stand in front of the congregation and “confess.”

I am a fundamentalist, and yet I have seen these things happen repeatedly in fundamentalist churches. When my wife and I found our current church, we talked to our pastor at length, and one thing he mentioned was that people around here are repulsed by fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are not the only ones who try to hide and ignore sin, I am certain, but I have seen it by far too many pastors.

For whatever reason, pastors refuse to listen when they are asked for help, or when it is revealed to them what sin is taking place within their flock. Perhaps it is because they are too proud. They have known these members of their church for years, and the charges against them can’t possibly be true or they have been fooled for years. Or perhaps the pastor didn’t want to think he would have listened to this deacon for so long who could do such a thing. Perhaps it is laziness. It is just not worth the effort to investigate, and to counsel, and to admonish. As long as things appear fine on the outside, then things must be fine at home. Perhaps it is fear of men. Maybe this is fear of giving, or fear of a church split. I do not know why these overseers of God’s flock refuse to purge out the bad, but it is driving people from Christ.

Kids that have suffered from physical, emotional, and psychological abuse are not willing to seek help. After much persuasion, they are finally willing to seek help from someone who they look up to, the pastor of the church. In response they are told: “Pray about it” (Not to discount prayer, but this is not the time to say “be warmed and filled” and go back to that abuse.) “You are rebellious.” “You are running from God.” “You are dishonoring your parents and displeasing to the Lord.” “You are on your way to Hell.”

The kids grow up and leave, and question within themselves whether God is good. They have not seen a picture of the God of the Bible. No, they have seen an unjust, and whimsical god in their parents and a merciless god of law in their pastor. They let go of any standard they had been told for they want nothing to do with the religion of their parents, nor their parents’ church.

People write articles and debate the reasons for fundamentalism dying. They argue about why the young people of my generation are leaving the movement, and why there are only old cranky people left. Is there really any wonder why?

It seems that mostly, this is always the weaker (in status, money, class, etc.) that is the victim. Too often this is children. At some point, pastors and churches have come to have a sincere distrust of children. This distrust extends to thinking of them as liars, and their parents as truthful. It is forgotten that the heart is deceitful above all things, not kids/poor/other being deceitful above all things. (Distrust of kids probably tends to stem from a lack of proper parenting, but this is a post for another day) Certainly, kids lie. But the seriousness of the issue should shock away any complacency towards these parents.

The Bible speaks of wisdom as discernment. A wise man of God will be able to prevent the false accusations towards the innocent and will work Biblically for discipline in the church to restore to fellowship with God those truly in sin, while protecting the innocent as much as possible.

If you are not outraged by this sin within our churches, what will it take?

borrowing

Well, here it is the end of the week, and I have not yet blogged. I do believe I have good reason. We recently bought a house which extended my driving time to/from work by about 2 hours each day. We have been spending all week working on making the house habitable, and then my school computer broke Wednesday. I was planning on blogging Thursday. Regardless, here I am.

In order to satisfy my self-imposed quota, I am going to borrow. I’m going to borrow two other posts that have resonated with me and which I already have drafts along the same thought line. Rather than write what has already been said, I will refer you to them with my sincere recommendation that you do visit and read these posts. This will allow me to borrow time for a substantive post of my own (next week).

(I realize I am using borrow in more of a general usage, rather than strict definition sense)

This first post, hit home with me. Not for the exact reason of not being able to sleep. I actually sleep soundly, but the pattern of apparent “sacrifice”, outward patience with others while inwardly seething, and complete selfishness hit me hard. I suspect that I am not the only one who falls into this pattern of sin.

http://bobbixby.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/the-gospel-in-bed/

The second one is another theme which I have had upon my mind quite a bit, and wish that more people understood it. Indeed, growing up, I had it backwards. I always invited people to church — the unsaved. I would share the Gospel when the opportunity arose, but I did not look for those opportunities. Instead, I made opportunities to invite to church. It is easier to relieve myself of the responsibility of that soul, and place it upon the church or pastor. This is not what the great commission is about though. We are to go out and win them. We are to witness. We are not just advertisements and marketers to get them in the door. The church is the house of God. The church is for the people of God. We are discipled here, but never in Scripture is it the primary location of salvation. Inviting people to church is fine, but it is not the pattern found in the New Testament.

http://reformingbaptist.blogspot.com/2010/10/missionaloh-i-get-itgreat-commission.html

Incidentally, there is a post further down on the removal of flags from the church auditorium. An interesting thing to consider.

For now, have a wonderful Lord’s day!

sin and its categories

When I considered teaching at a Christian school, I considered the possibilities I would have to teach the truth of Scripture. Many of the ways and times I thought I would have to teach, I have found to be naive thoughts. On the other hand, I have been able to speak to many about important things from the Bible in ways I did not expect.

Earlier this week, a student and I were talking about sin. He was talking to me about doing right, as opposed to doing wrong. After a little bit of a discussion it became apparent that he viewed sin as wrong actions consciously taken as opposed to the right actions.

I had to stop him to try to explain that sin is not defined thus. Sin is not just the actions we take that are wrong, but it is actions that are not right, moral. Sin is the attitude behind the actions, whether the action is moral or not. Sin is more than just a conscience decision to do wrong.

This student continued by saying how hard it was to make the right decision, and I responded by how this is really the easy part. Then I started thinking.

Consider dividing sin into two categories: those conscious decisions to do right or wrong, and those unconscious reactions/attitudes/responses that we do not have time to consider/think before doing.

While the first group may certainly be hard to master, it is the easier of the two. It is easier to train yourself to behave morally. Unsaved do it often. It is easier to behave acceptably, and even sacrificially. It is easier to refuse to allow yourself indulgence, or purposeful sin. Not to say it is easy, but it is easier.

How many struggle with this! When confronted with the option of sinning or doing right, how often do we take the wrong option? When confronted with the peer pressure to do wrong, do we yield? When do we purposefully perform an action that we know to not be the right one? Far too often for our tastes.

But that is just the beginning. My student was talking about “being perfect” and meaning no purposeful wrong act. That is far from perfect. We need to be so in tune with Christ and walking with Him that when something happens our response without thought is just and right and glorifying to Him. God does not excuse ignorant sins, nor does He excuse those sins we committed when caught by surprise.

These are the things we can’t predict or plan against. I don’t know when I’m going to have a car cut me off. If my attitude is right, I will be patient to get where I’m going, I will esteem others better than myself, and I will not get angry. But, that is something that happens in the moment, and is not a purposeful decision at that time to do.

To make the right decision in each and every case is only accomplished through the power of God. Many say that you must plan ahead of time to not get upset in such a situation. They instruct to understand it will happen, and to prepare ahead of time for such so that when it happens you will recall your plan and not respond incorrectly. That plan will aide your actions, but will not prevent your attitude, because you cannot plan for everything.

The only full way to plan is to change who you are, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We are to die to ourselves and live for Christ. We are to die to sin, that we may live righteously in God. There is no way to prevent sin besides the way provided by Christ. The only preparation is to consistently, and diligently walk with God, that is, prayer and Bible study. This is the part you can’t conquer in the moment. It must be defeated prior.

Attitude and heart are required by God, not just actions. Praise the Lord, He gives us the grace to overcome as we walk with Him.

Growth and maturity

In our Bible Doctrines class at church we are currently covering Savlation, and will soon be moving on to Christ. As I started to prepare this week, I began by referencing my notes from my class at MBBC.

I have a habit of keeping all my notes. I am certain that if I were to go through all the boxes I have at my parents house still, I would find Sunday School handouts from as far back as 5th-6th grade.  It comes in useful sometimes.

For example when I need to teach Bible Doctrines I can reference my notes from seminary. 🙂 What I found with my notes are the papers I needed to write, and the reading that I had done, along with several journal articles I had printed for referencing.

Though I remember my papers, and some of the arguments I made, I don’t often recall the answers on the tests, and I find it interesting to reread my writing style.

Sometimes, I read a paper, and think I couldn’t right a paper that complete any more. I admire the work, in the same sense I might admire an argument that Turretin makes. Other times, I see my work, and am disgusted and wonder how I could have thought that a particular point should have come after the other, and not before as it obviously should.

What I found most interesting this time however is my handwritten notes. I wrote things that I was adamant about. I wrote with exclamation points. I wrote with inflated punctuation. I questioned particular sentences as over the top, or not strong enough.

Today, as I read them, I am happy to see two different things. One, I have changed. I would not write certain things anymore. My position on a certain subject has been tempered by further Scripture. I have grown. I see where my zealousness lead me.

But two, I see things that I had correct as well. Statements made well, and with purpose. Correct evaluations (in that I would still agree with them today).

It is a great comfort to me to see both things. The latter because it gives me strength and hope that I have not been a complete fool, and the former because had I not found anything amiss amongst my things I would worry.

I am far from perfect, and my writings, like the rest of my life, should reflect a growth and a maturity over time. I will most assuredly panic when I find that I am no longer refining, or adjusting. When I find I am no longer intrigued or interested in Scripture, and that I believe the exact same things I did years ago, I will need a good jarring.

Certainly, we can come to the knowledge of the truth, and the Gospel. Certainly, we can learn, and have understanding. My previous post stated this most plainly. It is the statement of Scripture that we can have understanding and knowledge of the truth.

On the other hand, we cannot attain unto the infinite wonder of God and His revelation. We must ever be learning. We must never be content with the little bit that we see. Now we see through a glass darkly. Let us continue to study to shew ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed as we rightly divide the word of truth. We must study, and pray that God will continue to open our eyes. Let us not be satisfied with the milk of the word. Let us go on to meat. Meat belongeth to them that are of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.

Lord, let me never be as a babe content with milk, but bring me to age so that I may have meat, and further enable me to bear more meat today and each day, than previously before.

The simplicity of Scripture

This past summer I encountered something I had seen many times before. That is, that the Scriptures themselves are complicated and not truly enough for a decisive answer. But, this time it was in greater depth.

The thought line is as follows: anyone can interpret the Scriptures in any way they want. Therefore, to make a conclusive statement one must have overwhelming support of commentators, pastors, historians, and theologians. It is not enough to take a simple statement from the Scriptures.

The thought continues. People (philosophers and scholars) have devoted their lives to the study of these things, and our minor discussions, sunday school lessons, and sermons do not bring us to the level that these “experts” have attained to. Further, these men often run counter to orthodox Christianity. Therefore it is the duty of some Christians to keep up with them. (The “some” is given as a qualification knowing that God does not require everyone to get a ThM/PhD, or some great scholarly act.) These scholars are seen as “100 steps ahead of any of us.” “They will take any commentator, theologian, scholar, or verse that we use and use them all against us” and run circles around us. Therefore, we need to be prepared.

This thought eats at me. I have no problem with scholars, historians, or theologians. I think they have their place and have been heard to defend them on plenty of occasions. God gave pastors and teachers to the church for a reason. This thinking that they are 100 steps ahead of us however, ignores two very plain facts.

1. The Scriptures are meant to be understood. The Bible is God’s revelation to us, and He meant for us to understand what He is communicating to us.  Sure, there are passages that prove to be difficult. But among many of those, you will not find consensus among the scholars.

2. The Holy Spirit indwells us. It is the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes to understand. We have received “the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” 1 Cor. 2

The Scriptures are clear on so much. Salvation. The Gospel. Who Christ is. Simple statements all throughout Scripture. These can easily be convoluted and complicated. The problem comes when the Bible is clear on an issue and someone has a different opinion. Perhaps, in philosophy there is a different definition. Perhaps a religious system uses the term differently. Things must always come back to the Scriptures, for they are the revelation of God to us.

Let us view an example in more detail. Pilate, a lost degenerate, asked the question of Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate, confronted with the Son of God standing before Him, asked this question. This is a question asked of philosophy, and religion the world over. Are we left to wonder? Must we consult philosophers, commentators, theologians, and scholars?

No! Prior to Pilate asking, Christ answered the question. It does not take me knowing what the church fathers, reformers, etc. said. I don’t need to know Greek frontwards and back. I need to know the words of the incarnate Son of God that He spoke concerning the topic at hand.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christ is the truth. Again, “Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth.” The Word of God is truth, AND it is the truth by which the Father will perform the sanctification of the saints. Lastly, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If we continue in the Word of Truth, and then we are Christ’s disciples.

It is simple enough that if we are to know the word in order to continue in it, and if Christ says we will know the truth, then we must know it. That is the fact of Scripture. Truth is not something to be debated amongst the scholars. Christ is truth. The word of God is truth. Live it. Conform to the image of Christ as seen in His Word. This, just one example of something made overly complicated.

Why do we complicate things? God gave them to us for our understanding. He gave us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. We are to know these things, not wonder at them. We are to believe and have a grasp on them, not tell ourselves and others that “there is hardly any statement I could make dogmatically.”

Isn’t that the devil’s ploy? Did God really say thou shalt surely die? Make us question truth plainly before us. Good Christians are doing it. They who have stood and fought for the truth, now wonder if they can even define it. They hear a verse, and respond that one verse is not enough. They hear some more and want 100 sources and quotes, because surely ignorant laymen cannot answer the question by opening their Bibles to a verse.

YES!! We can! That is all we can do! Beseech God for him to open our eyes. We do not get understanding from those scholars, etc. We receive our wisdom from above, the eyes of our understanding being opened by the Holy Ghost, and we perceive by the grace of God.

Do not over-complicate the Scriptures. As believers, we possess the Holy Spirit and the revelation of God to us, with the promise that we have all we need for life and godliness.