Sermon Sunday – Johnathan Edwards – How to Know If You’re A Real Christian

August 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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How to Know if You are a Real Christian

by

 Jonathan Edwards
 (1703-1758)

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.” [James 2:19]

How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism programme in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, “Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?”  A very common response is, “I believe in God.” Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God’s favor, because I know these religious doctrines.

Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn’t believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God!  Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.)

However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: “You say you are a Christian and you are in God’s favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell.”

The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons “shudder” or tremble–they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God’s grace in our hearts.

This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, something of God’s saving grace-proof they would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God.

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they “shudder.” But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God’s existence is more concrete than any man’s knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn’t make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God’s grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.

We may make several conclusions based on these truths. First, that no matter how much people may know about God and the Bible, it is no sure sign of salvation. The devil before his fall, was one of the bright and morning stars, a flame of fire, one excelling in strength and wisdom. (Isa. 14:12, Ezek. 28:12-19) Apparently, as one of the chief angels, Satan knew much about God. Now that he is fallen, his sin has not destroyed his memories from before. Sin does destroy the spiritual nature, but not the natural abilities, such as memory. That the fallen angels do have many natural abilities may be seen from many Bible verses, for example Eph 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In the same way, the Bible says that Satan is “more crafty” than other created beings. (Gen 3:1, also 2 Cor. 11:3, Acts 13:10)

Therefore we can see that the Devil has always had great mental ability and is able to know much about God, the visible and invisible world, and many other things. Since his job in the beginning was to be a chief angel before God, it is only natural that understanding these things has always been of first importance to him, and that all his activities have to do with these areas of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.

Because it was his original employment to be one of the angels before the very face of God, and sin does not destroy the memory, it is clear that Satan knows more about God than just about any other created being. After the fall, we can see from his activities as a tempter, etc., (Matt 4:3) that he has been spending his time increasing his knowledge and its practical applications. That his knowledge is great can be seen in how tricky he is when tempting people. The craftiness of his lies shows how clever he is. Surely he could not manage his deceit so well without an actual and true knowledge of the facts.

This knowledge of God and his works is from the very beginning. Satan was there from the Creation, as Job 38:47 shows: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . .while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” So he must know much about the way God created the world, and how He governs all the events in the universe. Furthermore, Satan has seen how God has worked his plan of redemption in the world; and not as an innocent bystander, but as an active enemy of God’s grace. He saw God work in the lives of Adam and Eve, in Noah, Abraham, and David. He must have taken a special interest in the life of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, the Word of God incarnate. How closely did he watch Christ? How carefully did he observe his miracles and listen to His words? This is because Satan has set himself against Christ’s work, and it is to his torment and anguish that Satan has watched Christ’s work unfold successfully.

Satan, then, knows much about God and God’s work. He knows heaven first-hand. He knows hell also, with personal knowledge as its first resident, and has experienced its torments for all these thousands of years. He must have a great knowledge of the Bible: at the least, we can see he knew enough to try tempting our Saviour. Furthermore, he has had years of studying of the hearts of men, his battlefield where he fights against our Redeemer. What labours, exertions, and cares the Devil has used over the centuries as he has deceived men. Only a being with his knowledge and experience of God’s working, and the human heart, could so imitate true religion and transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)

Therefore we can see that there is no amount of knowledge of God and religion that could prove a person has been saved from their sin. A man may talk about the Bible, God, and the Trinity. He may be able to preach a sermon about Jesus Christ and everything He has done. Imagine, somebody might be able to speak about the way of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, perhaps even enough to show others how to become Christians. All these things might build up the church and enlighten the world, yet it is not a sure proof of the saving grace of God in a person’s heart.

It also may be seen that for people to merely agree with the Bible is no sure sign of salvation. James 2:19 shows that the demons really, truly, believe the truth. Just as they believe there is one God, they agree with all the truth of the Bible. The devil is not a heretic: all the articles of his faith are firmly established in the truth.

It must be understood, that when the Bible talks about believing that Jesus is the Son of God, as a proof of God’s grace in the heart, the Bible means not a mere agreement with the truth, but another kind of believing. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) This other kind of believing is called “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” (Titus 1:1) There is a spiritual holding to the truth, which will be explained later on.

Religious experiences are no proof of salvation.

Some people have strong religious experiences, and think of them as proof of God’s working in their hearts. Often these experiences give people a sense of the importance of the spiritual world, and the reality of divine things. However, these, too, are no sure proof of salvation. Demons and damned human beings have many spiritual experiences which have a great effect on their heart attitudes. They live in the spiritual world and see first-hand what it is like. Their sufferings show them the worth of salvation and the worth of a human soul in the most powerful way imaginable. The parable in Luke chapter 16 teaches this clearly, as the suffering man asks that Lazarus might be sent to tell his brothers to avoid this place of torment. No doubt people in hell now have a distinct idea of the vastness of eternity, and of the shortness of life. They are completely convinced that all the things of this life are unimportant when compared to the experiences of the eternal world.

People now in hell have a great sense of the preciousness of time, and of the wonderful opportunities people have, who have the privilege of hearing the Gospel. They are completely aware of the foolishness of their sin, of neglecting opportunities, and ignoring the warnings of God. When sinners find out by personal experience the final result of their sin there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 13:42) So even the most powerful religious experiences are not a sure sign of God’s grace in the heart.

Demons and damned people also have a strong sense of God’s majesty and power. God’s power is most clearly displayed in his execution of divine vengeance upon his enemies. “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction?” (Rom 9:22) Shuddering, the devils await their final punishment, under the strongest sense of God’s majesty. They feel it now, of course, but in the future it will show to the greatest degree, when the Lord Jesus “is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thess 2:7) On that day, they will desire to be run away, to be hidden from the presence of God. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” (Rev 1:7) So everyone will see him in the glory of His Father. But, obviously, not all who see him will be saved.

Objection #1- People are different from demons.

Now it is possible that some people might object to all this, saying that ungodly men in this world are quite different from demons. They are under different circumstances and are different kind of beings. An objector might say, “Those things that are visible and present to demons are invisible and future to men. Besides, people have the disadvantage of having bodies, which restrain the soul, and keep people from seeing these spiritual things first-hand. Therefore, even if demons do have a great knowledge and personal experience of the things of God, and have no grace, the conclusion does not apply to me.” Or, put another way: if people have these things in this life, it may very well be a sure sign of God’s grace in their hearts.

In reply, it is agreed that no man in this life has ever had the degree of these things as the demons have them. No person has ever shuddered, with the same amount of fear that the demons shudder with. No man, in this life, can ever have the same kind of knowledge that the Devil has. It is clear that demons and damned men understand the vastness of eternity, and the importance of the other world, more than any living person, and so they crave salvation all the more.

But we can see that men in this world can have experiences of the same kind as those of demons and damned people. They have the same mental outlook, the same opinions and emotions, and the same kind of impressions on the mind and heart. Notice, that for the apostle James it is a convincing argument. He claims that if people think believing in one God is proof of God’s grace, it is not proof, because demons believe the same. James is not referring to the act of believing only, but also to the emotions and actions that go along with their belief. Shuddering is an example of emotions from the heart. This shows that if people have the same kind of mental outlook, and respond from the heart in the same way, it is no sure sign of grace.

The Bible does not state how much people in this world may see God’s glory, and not have God’s grace in their hearts. We are not told exactly to what degree God reveals himself to certain people, and how much they will respond in their hearts. It is very tempting to say that if a person has a certain amount of religious experience, or a certain amount of truth, they must be saved. Perhaps it is even possible for some unsaved people to have greater experiences than some of those who have grace in their hearts! So it is wrong to look at experience or knowledge in terms of amount. Men who have a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts have experiences and knowledge of a different kind.

Objection #2- People can have religious feelings that demons cannot.

At this point, someone might answer these thoughts by saying, “I agree with you. I see that believing in God, seeing His majesty and holiness, and knowing that Jesus died for sinners is not proof of grace in my heart. I agree that demons can know these things as well. But I have some things they don’t have. I have joy, peace, and love. Demons can’t have them, so that must show that I am saved.”

Yes, it is true that you have something more than a demon can have, but it is nothing better than a demon could have. A person’s experience of love, joy, etc., may not be because they have any cause in them different from a demon, but just different circumstances. The causes, or origins, of their feelings are the same. This is why these experiences are no better than those of demons. To explain further:

All the things that were discussed before about demons and damned people, arise from two main causes, natural understanding and self-love. When they think about themselves, these two things are what determine their feelings and response. Natural understanding shows them that God is holy, while they are wicked. God is infinite, but they are limited. God is powerful, and they are weak. Self-love gives them a sense of the importance of religion, the eternal world, and a longing after salvation. When these two causes work together, demons and damned men become aware of the awesome majesty of God, whom they know will be their Judge. They know that God’s judgment will be perfect and their punishment will be forever. Therefore, these two causes together with their senses will bring about their anguish on that judgment day, when they see the outward glory of Christ and His saints.

The reason many people feel joy, peace, and love today, while demons do not, may be more due to their circumstances, rather than any difference in their hearts. The causes in their hearts are the same. For example, the Holy Spirit is now at work in the world keeping all of mankind from being as wicked as they could be (2 Thess 2:17). This is in contrast to demons, who are just as wicked as they can be all the time. Furthermore, God in his mercy gives gifts to all people, such as the rain for crops (Matt 5:45), heat from the sun, etc. Not only that, but often people receive many things in life to bring them happiness, such as personal relationships, pleasures, music, good health, and so on. Most important of all, many people have heard news of hope: God has sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners. In these circumstances, the natural understanding of people can cause them to feel things that demons never can.

Self-love is a powerful force in the hearts of men, strong enough without grace to cause people to love those who love them, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners  love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) It is a natural thing for a person who sees God being merciful, and who knows that they are not as bad as they could be, to therefore be sure of God’s love for them. If your love for God comes only from your feelings that God loves you, or because you have heard that Christ died for you, or something similar, the source of your love to God is only self-love. This reigns in the hearts of demons as well.

Imagine the situation of the demons. They know they are unrestrained in their wickedness. They know God is their enemy and always will be. Although they are without any hope, still they are active and fighting. Just think, what if they had some of the hope that people have? What if demons, with their knowledge of God, had their wickedness restrained? Imagine if a demon, after all his fears about God’s judgment, was suddenly led to imagine that God might be his Friend? That God might forgive him and let him, sin and all, into heaven? Oh the joy, the wonder, the gratitude we would see! Would not this demon be a great lover of God, since, after all everybody loves people who help them? What else could cause feelings so powerful and sincere? Is it any wonder, that so many people are deceived this way? Especially since people have the demons to promote this delusion. They have been promoting it now for many centuries, and alas they are very good at it.

True Spiritual experiences have a different source.

Now we come to the question, if all these various experiences and feelings come from nothing more than demons are capable of, what are the kinds of experiences that are truly spiritual and holy? What do I have to find in my own heart, as a sure sign of God’s grace there? What are the differences that show them to be from the Holy Spirit?

This is the answer: those feelings and experiences which are good signs of God’s grace in the heart differ from the experience of demons in their source and in their results.

Their source is the sense of the overwhelming holy beauty and loveliness of the things of God. When a person grasps in his mind, or better yet, when he feels his own heart held captive by the attractiveness of the Divine, this is an unmistakable sign of God’s working.

The demons and damned in hell do not now, and never will experience even the tiniest bit of this. Before their fall, the demons did have this sense of God. But in their fall, they lost it, the only thing they could lose of their knowledge of God. We have seen how the demons have very clear ideas about how powerful God is, his justice, holiness, and so on. They know a lot of facts about God. But now they haven’t a clue about what God is like. They cannot know what God is like any more than a blind man can know about colors! Demons can have a strong sense God’s awesome majesty, but they don’t see his loveliness. They have observed His work among the human race for these thousands of years, indeed with the closest attention; but they never see a glimmer of His beauty. No matter how much they know about God (and we have seen that they know very much indeed) the knowledge they have will never bring them to this higher, spiritual knowing what God is like. On the contrary, the more they know about God, the more they hate Him. The beauty of God consists primarily in this holiness, or moral excellence, and this is what they hate the most. It is because God is holy that the demons hate Him. One could suppose that if God were to be less holy, the demons would hate Him less. No doubt demons would hate any holy Being, no matter what He was like otherwise. But surely they hate this Being
all the more, for being infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful!

Wicked people, including those alive today, will on the day of judgment see all there is to see of Jesus Christ, except His beauty and loveliness. There is not one thing about Christ that we can think of, that will not be set before them in the strongest light on that brilliant day. The wicked will see Jesus “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26) They will see his outward glory, which is far, far greater than we can possibly imagine now. You know the wicked will be thoroughly convinced of all who Christ is. They will be convinced about His omniscience, as they see all their sins replayed and evaluated. They will know first-hand Christ’s justice, as their sentences are announced. His authority will be made utterly convincing when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. (Phil 2:10,11) The divine majesty will be impressed upon them in quite an effective way, as the wicked are poured into hell itself, and enter into their final state of suffering and death (Rev 20:14,15) When that happens, all their knowledge of God, as true and as powerful as it may be, will be worth nothing, and less than nothing, because they will not see Christ’s beauty.

Therefore, it is this seeing the loveliness of Christ that makes the difference between the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences of demons. This sight or sense is what makes true Christian experience different from everything else. The faith of God’s elect people is based on this. When a person sees the excellence of the gospel, he senses the beauty and loveliness of the divine scheme of salvation. His mind is convinced that it is of God, and he believes it with all his heart. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 4:34, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” That is to say, as was explained before, unbelievers can see that there is a gospel, and understand the facts about it, but they do not see its light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, his holiness and beauty. Right after this we read, 2 Cor 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Clearly, it is this divine light, shining into our hearts, that enables us to see the beauty of the gospel and have a saving belief in Christ. This supernatural light shows us the superlative beauty and loveliness of Jesus, and convinces us of His sufficiency as our Saviour. Only such a glorious, majestic Saviour can be our Mediator, standing between guilty, hell-deserving sinners such as ourselves, and an infinitely holy God. This supernatural light gives us a sense of Christ that convinces us in a way nothing else ever could.

A true spiritual experience transforms the heart.

When a most wicked sinner is caused to see Christ’s divine loveliness, he no longer speculates why God should be interested in him, to save him. Before, he could not understand how the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for sins. But now he can see the preciousness of Christ’s blood, and how it is worthy to be accepted as the ransom for the worst of sins. Now the soul can recognize that he is accepted by God, not because of who he is, but because of the value God puts on the blood, obedience, and intercession of Christ. Seeing this value and worth gives the poor guilty soul rest which cannot be found in any sermon or booklet.

When a person comes to see the proper foundation of faith and trust with his own eyes, this is saving faith. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (John 6:40) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17:6-8) It is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ that captivates the wills and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the outward greatness of God in His glory may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure. This will be seen on the day of judgment, when the wicked will be brought before God. They will be overwhelmed, yes, but the hostility of the heart will remain in full strength and the opposition of the will continue. But on the other hand, a single ray of the moral and spiritual glory of God and of the supreme loveliness of Christ shone into the heart overcomes all hostility. The soul is inclined to love God as if by an omnipotent power, so that now not only the understanding, but the whole being receives and embraces the loving Saviour.

This sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God’s nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

Genuine spiritual experiences have different results.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ’s beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God’s grace from the false.

False spiritual experiences have a tendency to cause pride, which is the devil’s special sin. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6) Pride is the inevitable result of false spiritual experiences, even though they are often covered with a disguise of great humility. False experience is enamored with self and grows on self. It lives by showing itself in one way or another. A person can have great love for God, and be proud of the greatness of his love. He can be very humble, and very proud indeed of his humility. But the emotions and experiences that come from God’s grace are exactly opposite. God’s true working in the heart causes humility. They do not cause any kind of showiness or self-exaltation. That sense of the awesome, holy, glorious beauty of Christ kills pride and humbles the soul. The light of God’s loveliness, and that alone, shows the soul its own ugliness. When a person really grasps this, he inevitably begins a process of making God bigger and bigger, and himself smaller and smaller.

Another result of God’s grace working in the heart is that the person will hate every evil and respond to God with a holy heart and life. False experiences may cause a certain amount of zeal, and even a great deal of what is commonly called religion. However it is not a zeal for good works. Their religion is not a service of God, but rather a service of self. This is how the apostle James puts it himself in this very context, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?” (James 2:1920) In other words, deeds, or good works, are evidence of a genuine experience of God’s grace in the heart. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:34) When the heart has been ravished by the beauty of Christ, how else can it respond?

The sight of Christ’s beauty- God’s greatest gift!

How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from this sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God’s own beauty. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ’s beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labours and the most precious purchase of his blood.

By this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world. This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven. Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Amen.

Originally titled True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils by Jonathan Edwards, 1752. This modern language version is Copyright 1994 by William Carson. Permission is granted for reproduction, so long as this file is not altered, this notice is included in any reproduction, and it is not sold for profit.

Why do you go to church?

December 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been thinking about something and anyone who reads this blog knows that it means trouble….

Over the past year, I’ve been looking for a church. I have been to a few churches and they’ve been full of nice people, and yet, I’ve not been able to find a church that has what I am looking for in a church. Let me state again, the churches that I’ve been to are full of very nice people, but it’s not enough. My search is especially frustrating because I live in the “Bible belt” of the United States. Here, there is a church on every street corner (this is almost literal). Here, going to church is a regular part of life. But, as I’ve studied scripture, I’ve noticed that the reason we go is very important. Even more important is what goes on there. Continue Reading Why do you go to church?…

Newslinks 08/29/10

August 29, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Newslinks | Leave a comment
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Sunday’s Newslinks brought to you by At Ease Tees

Ministry Blasts ‘Gross Misrepresentation’ of Creation Museum
The Creation Museum issued a response this week refuting much of the critiques that were made in a recent LiveScience article, including the claim that non-Christians are unwelcome.

Conservative Lutherans to Form New Church Body in North America

Army Soldiers: Skipping Christian Concert Got Us Punished

Extremists Can Gain Ground Through Pakistan Flood Aid, Warns Group

Rapes of Christian Girls in Pakistan Reflect Hidden Trend

So. Baptist Pastor: We Have to Crucify Our Self-Righteousness Continue Reading Newslinks 08/29/10…

What makes something Christian?

May 17, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been in a few discussions lately that have completely boggled my mind. While I will readily admit that this isn’t hard to do, it didn’t happen because the depth of the discussion went over my head or because the words being used were too big. This happened basically because of some of the things that self-proclaimed “Christians” said during the discussion. The discussions took place on a page set up for a Christian radio station. If you’ve read my blog on Contemporary Christian Music, then you already know that this discussion didn’t start out good. The main topic of discussion revolved around the recent return to music of Jennifer Knapp.  For those of you that may not know, Jennifer Knapp, a Christian artist who decided to take a 7-year hiatus from music, has made her return to the music scene. Unfortunately, she isn’t the same person she once was. Ms. Knapp has made it known to the entire world that she is a lesbian and has been in a homosexual relationship for a few years now.

This announcement sparked a bit of a dialogue on the radio station’s page. There were questions as to whether or not the station should or would play her music anymore. This is where my adventure began. To me, this is a no brainer. Ms. Knapp, while possibly singing about God before, is no longer living a lifestyle that glorifies God. Because of this, the radio station should no longer play her music. If they did, it would look like the radio station was supporting her lifestyle and could confuse new Christians or mislead people into thinking that homosexuality is supported by the church. Then the discussions began.

A few people started posting how much they loved Ms. Knapp and her music and how “uplifting” it was. They talked about how Christian music isn’t about how many times a song mentions God or Jesus, instead it’s about “the deep emotions, the struggle, the quest to find God, live in God’s word, worship God, and be at peace”. Many of the participants overlooked her sin (because we’ve all sinned) and instead focused on the gift that God has given her and how she should be able to use it for His glory. People were upset that some would “judge” her or her lifestyle because we’re not supposed to do that. Others equated anything said against her as “hate”. They said that we need to “build her up” instead of “tearing her down”.  Others said that pastors, teachers, singers, and preachers should not be held to a higher standard than the rest of us because they face the same temptations that we do (even though it says that they are held to a higher standard by God…). The only time scripture was used in the discussion was when people wanted to remind others that we shouldn’t judge or “throw stones”.  There were even comments about how “one religion is no better than another “and how “all opinions should be respected”…on a CHRISTIAN music station’s page!

All of this got me mad, and then it got me thinking about some things. First, it made me sad that so few Christians seem to have an understanding of even the most basic of Christian doctrines. What exactly is being taught today in the church? Second, it made me think about what makes something Christian? What is it that determines whether or not something is Christian? Today, in churches, on Christian discussion boards, and all over the place, there are people talking about things being Christian; but what makes it Christian. Is it Christian because we decide that it is? What happens if we decide five years from now that it’s no longer Christian, does that mean that it’s not? Should we go by our feelings to determine if something is Christian? What if our feelings change? Is it not Christian anymore? Is the Christian faith built upon such a wishy-washy, flimsy foundation as whims or feelings? NO!

What makes something Christian has nothing to do with how we feel about it, or whether we like it, or even agree with it or not. Something is Christian because God said it is. Please stop and read that again. If something is Christian, it is because God said it is. Here’s what I mean. God Himself has determined what Christianity looks like. Jesus is the complete and perfect embodiment of Christianity. If something claims to be Christian and doesn’t match that embodiment, then it’s not Christian; no matter how strongly we desire it to be otherwise. This goes for people, doctrines, teaching, and everything else. Man has somehow gotten it into his head (I think this first happened in the garden) that he can come to God however he desires and God will be ok with it. He can live his life the way that he wants and give God lip service and things will be just fine. It has become so bad that some “churches” believe that a person can follow the doctrines of Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, or even atheism and still be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. As long as they follow the tenets of their chosen religious system, they are good to go.

Man has been trying this ever since the beginning and it has never worked. God has ordained specific ways that He wants things done and they are to be done that way or they are wrong. In the book of Genesis, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden but one. God even told them what would happen to them if they disobeyed. In chapter 3 we see Eve and Adam both thinking that they could disobey God without consequence. They ate the fruit, and they ushered death into the world.  In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu were killed on the spot for offering strange fire. God had laid out for them a specific way that they were to offer incense to Him and when they didn’t do it the way He prescribed, God killed them. In Numbers 20, the people were grumbling about not having water to drink. Moses went to God to seek guidance for what he should do. God told Moses to speak to the rock at Horeb and it would bring forth water. Moses gathered Israel together and then took the rod and struck the rock twice. Because they disobeyed God, both Moses and Aaron were unable to enter the Promised Land. Numerous times in the Old Testament Israel followed after other gods instead of remaining true to the one true God. Because of their disobedience, God punished them with famine, plague, invasion from other countries, and even captivity.

As I said above, God is the one who defines Christianity (not man) and He has chosen to do so through His Son Jesus. God has determined that for someone to be born again, they need to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. He has determined that Christians are not to condone sin, immorality, or impurity. They are not to look or act like the world but should be more and more like Christ. They are to be making disciples and preaching the true gospel. They are to be teaching others to observe exactly what Jesus commanded us. Unfortunately, the church tries to imitate the world in a horrible effort to try and lure non-Christians in to church. They seem to think that those people will enjoy the worldliness of the “church” and will stay long enough to hear about Jesus (if they even hear about Him at all). When the non-Christians leave the church (and they will), it will be for one of two reasons. Either the church’s efforts to mimic the world are so bad that they can’t stand to sit there and watch; or, they have been deceived into “making a decision for Christ”, “accepting Jesus into their heart”, or “trying Jesus” and were let down when the promised better life didn’t come. Not only have they not been saved from sin and hell, they are now inoculated against the truth because of their experience.

The entire focus of the Bible revolves around one person…and it’s not you. Or me. It is Jesus. We are to pattern our lives after the scriptures that have been written down for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The scriptures show us exactly how we are to live and not live. It shows us how we are to treat God, others, and even ourselves. It warns us of temptation, sin, pride, wrath, and hell. It encourages us to live lives that are worthy of the gospel. This and more come from scripture and scripture alone. And the church pushes that to the side in order to chase after hollow, “relevant”, worldly endeavors that will mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Until the church gets back to the biblical definition of Christianity, it will be filled with squishy, shallow, “feel-good” Christians who build idols of Christianity that suit them and their egos while offering no lasting hope or firm foundation.

Newslinks 04/25/10

April 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Newslinks | Leave a comment
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Sunday’s Newslinks brought to you by At Ease Tees

 

Negative policy comments not ‘racist’
A black Christian conservative activist says those who don’t support President Barack Obama’s policies are not racist.

‘Pro-life Democrat’ – R.I.P.
A conservative writer says the retirement of Congressman Bart Stupak is the official “obituary” for the phrase “pro-life Democrat.”

Perspective: The ‘pro-choice’ fraud exposed
Well done, Barack Obama…you’ve just proven something that pro-lifers have been fighting to demonstrate for 40 years: the abortion movement has never been about choice.

Obama’s goal? Socialism at all costs
Author Jerome Corsi says it will be very difficult to reverse the socialist policies of Barack Obama, even if Republicans take over control of Congress next year.

Family-friendly = box office-friendly
Family-friendly movies continue to make an impact at the box office, and some are even receiving critical acclaim. Continue Reading Newslinks 04/25/10…

Image

February 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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When you take a look at the world today, much of what goes on is based on image. How things look dictate a lot of how we live our lives. What the weather looks like determines what we wear, where we go, and what we do. What a person looks like often causes us to make a  quick, all-inclusive judgment as to the person’s demeanor, their lifestyle, and possibly even their childhood. A large majority of the items that we buy today are bought based on their image. Ad companies try to make everything from clothes to cars to cigarettes more appealing by giving them an image that will draw people in, regardless of whether the product is really as good as they say it is (which is seldom the case). Movies, TV shows, magazines, and music are all given a special image that the producers hope will cause millions of people to part with either time or money for that product. They strive to make each image unique so that it “stands out” from the rest of the products. Continue Reading Image…

Dancing with Wolves

January 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In day and time that we live, it seems like the eyes of the church have dimmed and its resolve has ebbed. It seems like we have dropped our guard, slid down the slope, and lowered our standards to the point that they’re already met. We’ve laid down our truth, our history, and the thousands of years of strong, steadfast, examples in favor of one shot, quick flash, celebrities and watery pastors. All of this in the name of “hope” and “reaching out” to the lost.

The scriptures talk about things like this happening in the last days:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30) Continue Reading Dancing with Wolves…

Newslinks – 09/12/09

September 12, 2009 at 9:24 am | Posted in Newslinks | Leave a comment
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Saturday’s Newslinks brought to you by At Ease Tees

ELCA Leader Urges Flock to Continue Conversation

Gospel Music Association Head Steps Down 

Massive Christian Festival Kicks Off Labor Day Weekend 

Web Site Invites Churches to Engage in Online Mission 

7.0 Quake Leaves 28,000 Homeless in Indonesia 

Schools Should Teach Christianity’s Role in U.S. History, Say Evangelicals 

Health Care Bill Would Reduce Abortion, Says Progressive Think Tank 

Indonesia Quake Toll Expected to Pass 100 

Poll: American Giving-Away Trend Continues 

Baptist Pastor Fatally Shot by Police in Drug Sting 

 
Global ‘Ecological Board of Directors’ Envisioned by State Department’s Climate Czar
(CNSNews.com)
– Todd Stern, now the State Department’s special envoy for climate change, once pushed for the creation of an annual “E8” summit to address environmental issues. Stern represents the United States in international environmental negotiations, including the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place in Copenhagen in December.

Chief Treasury Economist Says White House Economic Forecast is ‘Smoother’ Than Can Be Expected in Reality
(CNSNews.com)
– Alan Krueger, assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist at the Treasury Department, told reporters that the economic projections used by the White House–which foresee a decade of uninterrupted economic growth ahead–are “smoother” than what can be expected in reality. Krueger, speaking to reporters at a Friday briefing, said numerous factors could affect and alter those estimates.

Administration’s Suggestions for Teachers: Read Books about Obama, Post Obama Quotes on Classroom Walls
(CNSNews.com)
– The “corrected” lesson plans from the U.S. Department of Education suggest that schools around the country use President Obama’s speech to students on Tuesday as a “teachable moment.” The “menu of classroom activities” still calls for teachers to read books about Obama and to post quotations from Obama in large print on classroom walls.

Study Shows Sharp Increase in TV Ads Soliciting Plaintiffs for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
(CNSNews.com)
– Democrats demanding health-care reform are not saying much about medical malpractice lawsuits. But a new study indicates that tort reform should be included in any meaningful health care overhaul. The study — conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform – says television advertisements soliciting plaintiffs for medical malpractice lawsuits increased nearly 1,400 percent in four years.

Surgeon General Post Unfilled as Obama Pushes Health Care Reform and Swine Flu Concerns Grow
(CNSNews.com)
– As President Barack Obama welcomes Congress back to Washington with a joint address on his health care reform agenda and federal officials advise the public on preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus, the U.S. Surgeon General post remains unfilled.

Controversy Surrounds Frontrunner in Race to Head Major U.N. Agency
(CNSNews.com)
– A major United Nations agency will choose a new director-general in the coming days, and although promoting freedom of expression is among UNESCO’s key functions, the leading candidate is backed by some of the world’s most repressive governments. Farouk Hosni, who has been Egypt’s culture minister for more than two decades, has made provocative comments about the Israel.

Defiant Over Nuclear Issue, Iran Wins Sanctions-Busting Pledge From Chavez
(CNSNews.com)
– As the first of a series of crucial meetings on nuclear issues began Monday, Iran’s government reiterated its defiance of the international community, saying that as far as it was concerned, the question was settled. “We will never negotiate Iran’s undeniable rights,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters.

 Stanford Researchers Transform Fat Cells into Stem Cells

Sudanese Archbishop Appeals for Int’l Action in Struggle for Peace 

Iraqi Political Groups Use Dwindling Christian Community as ‘Tools’ 

Church Leaders, Climate Experts to Urge World Leaders to Focus on Poor 

‘I Hate Obama’ Pastor Draws Protesters Outside Church 

Yale under fire for removal of Muslim cartoons
Yale University has removed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from an upcoming book about how they caused outrage across the Muslim world, drawing criticism from prominent alumni and a national group of university professors. VOTE IN A RELATED POLL

Independents dissatisfied with Obama
A political analyst says President Obama’s support is eroding among a group of voters that was pivotal to his election in 2008 — independents.

Perspective: Listening to a liar
If people think that the words Barack Obama says are what matters, they can be led into something much worse than being swindled out of their money.

Perspective: An open letter to liberals
I’ve often thought of writing an open letter to those who assume my views are repugnant because of the conservative label. So guess what?

Studios now see value in family-friendly films
Noted entertainment critic Ted Baehr says Christians are making a difference when it comes to the availability of family-friendly movies.

Obama Pitched Health Care Reform to Students in Meeting Prior to His Speech on Education
(CNSNews.com)
– Although President Barack Obama avoided controversial topics in his nationally broadcast speech to students on Tuesday, he did promote health care reform in a face-to-face discussion with ninth graders at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

Hoyer: Media ‘Misrepresented’ Town Hall Protests
(CNSNews.com)
– House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says the national news media, particularly television networks, “misrepresented” the extent of opposition to health care reform voiced at various town hall meeting in August. By focusing on the rowdy few, the television cameras prevented the public from seeing the majority of people who are either open to reform or support health care reform, Hoyer said.

Obama Promises to Give Us ‘A Much More Detailed’ Health Care Plan Wednesday Night
(CNSNews.com)
– In a nationally televised speech Wednesday night, President Barack Obama will explain to the American people “what I think is the best way to move forward” on health care reform. According to his press secretary Robert Gibbs, Obama “will discuss pretty robustly the public option tonight.”

Many of Obama’s Claims about Health-Care Reform Have Been Debunked
(CNSNews.com)
– While President Obama tells a joint session of Congress what he wants and is willing to accept in a health care reform bill Wednesday night, he may also repeat some of the points he has made over the past few months that have been refuted by non-partisan sources. The president, for example, has said health-care reform will be deficit neutral and will not steer tax dollars to abortions. He also says there are 46 million uninsured Americans. But each of these claims has been disputed by non-partisan sources.

U.S. Government Paid 15-Year-Olds to Answer Graphic Questions About Their Sex Lives
(CNSNews.com)
– From March 2002 to March 2003, the federal government paid more than a thousand 15- to 17-year-olds $40 each to answer questions about their sex lives, including intimate questions about specific sexual acts, whether they had ever engaged in homosexual acts, whether they had used contraception, and what sorts of discussions they had had with their parents about sex.

Lieberman: U.S. Needs to Be Prepared for Biological Attack
Washington (CNSNews.com)
– Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, says the U.S. is in no better position today than it was in December 2008, when a government commission warned that Americans were not safe from an attack with biological weapons — and that a terrorist attack involving a WMD was likely to occur somewhere in the world by 2013.

Test-Ban Treaty Advocates See ‘Window of Opportunity’ Opened by Obama
(CNSNews.com)
– Proponents of a global ban on nuclear weapons testing are optimistic that President Obama’s support for ratifying the pact will encourage other holdouts to follow suit, speeding up its entry into force. But the prospect of a U.S. shift is causing unease in India, and there is no sign that either Iran or North Korea is willing to embrace the test-ban agreement.

Dems’ healthcare ‘compromises’ mislead public
A healthcare policy expert says both the “trigger” and non-profit cooperative proposals being pushed by Democrats resemble the “camel’s nose under the tent” of government-run healthcare. POLL: What advice would YOU give Congress? VOTE

Perspective: A self-serving healthcare savior
Tom Daschle evaded IRS rules for years – yet he remains a top White House confidante and policy strategist who’s now leading the drive to save Obamacare.

Federal probe should include Planned Parenthood
Prominent pro-life leader Alveda King has some advice for the Justice Department in a probe of racism.

Taxpayers footing legal bills for former Fannie execs
Many U.S. taxpayers are unaware that they are now paying for the legal bills of three top former executives for government-run mortgage firm Fannie Mae.

Parenting: Damage control for teens of divorce
Divorce piles on emotional problems for a teen a little higher than there would normally be for an already emotional adolescent.

1.2 Million Sign Anti-Health Care Bill Petition to Congress

1,200 African Church Leaders Attend Billion Soul Summit in Uganda 

Church Leaders Abuzz About Virtual Conference 

Businesswoman to Church: Financial Crisis Golden Opportunity for Economic Justice 

Christians in Pakistan Fear Further Firestorms 

Obama heckled by GOP during speech: ‘You lie!’
The nastiness of August reached from the nation’s town halls into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as President Barack Obama tried to move his healthcare plan forward.

‘Anti-American counterculturists’ found among Obama’s czars
Iowa Congressman Steve King says he’s pleased that President Barack Obama’s so-called “green jobs” czar has resigned — but it’s just a start, he adds.

Perspective: Media bite into ‘vetting’ apple
The media basically ignored the growing controversy over Van Jones’ communist background as it built over the past couple of weeks.

Religious song banned from graduation
The Rutherford Institute is taking another school free-speech case to the Supreme Court.

Persistent prayer reaps rewards
A well-known pastor and author says desperation, prayer, and persistence will lead to true revival.

 Obama Won’t Give Federal Insurance Benefits to Illegal Aliens; He’ll Make Them Legal First
(CNSNews.com)
– In his speech to a joint session of Congress last night, President Obama said that his health care reform plan will not insure “illegal immigrants.” It is true that both the House and Senate health care bills as they are now drafted would make illegal aliens ineligible for federally funded health care. But President Obama has stated as recently as last month at a press conference in Mexico that he will seek “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation that will put illegal aliens on a “pathway to citizenship.”

Democrats’ Health Care Bills Do Not Require Citizenship Verification
(CNSNews.com)
– Rep. Joe Wilson’s shout-out Wednesday night came in response to President Obama’s claim that illegal immigrants would not be covered by the Democrats’ health care plan. “You lie!” Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled. Republicans, in a post-speech “fact-check,” suggested that Obama is making a promise the legislation does not keep.

Health Experts Call Obesity A Threat to National Security
(CNSNews.com)
– Health care experts, including two former U.S. surgeons general, said on Wednesday said that obesity has reached epidemic proportions and is a threat to security in the United States and abroad. It also affects the future of health care, said Richard Carmona, who served as surgeon general in the Bush administration.

Republicans: Why Wait? Tackle the Biggest Health Care Problems Right Now
(CNSNews.com)
– In the Republican response to President Barack Obama, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana offered what he called a faster, more affordable way to bring about the health care reform. Boustany said Congress should scrap the Democrat-authored bills currently under consideration – particularly the call for a public option — and start over with a “targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems.” He outlined four areas where “we can agree, right now.”

Obama Adviser Hopes Catholic Bishops Will Find A Way to Support Democrats’ Health Care Reform Legislation, Despite Abortion Concerns
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com)
– A top adviser to President Barack Obama told CNSNews.com the White House hopes the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will come to understand that the Democrats’ health care reform legislation does not cover abortion. “This should not be turned into a debate about abortion,” David Axelrod said.

White House Won’t Rule Out ‘Reconciliation’ Maneuver to Pass Health Care Reform Bill
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com)
– President Barack Obama is still hoping for a bipartisan health care reform bill, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said, and he will support whatever it takes to get a health care package through Congress.

Congressional Report Questions Legality of GM and Chrysler Bailouts
(CNSNews.com)
– A report issued by the Congressional Oversight Panel tasked with overseeing the implementation of the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) questions whether the Bush and Obama administrations had the legal authority to use TARP funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. The report, issued Wednesday, confirmed what CNSNews.com had previously reported: that the law which created TARP–the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act–did not grant the government specific authority to use taxpayers’ funds to rescue the auto industry.

Organizers Predict Thousands of Tea Party Activists Will Attend Saturday’s March on Washington
(CNSNews.com)
– Thousands of angry taxpayers are expected to come to the nation’s capital on Saturday, Sept. 12, to march on the National Mall. These are many of the same Americans who staged “tea parties” this Spring to protest the $700 billion mortgage bailout and passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill — and the same people who turned out in droves over the August congressional break at town hall meetings around the country to express their outrage over a proposed trillion dollar health-care “reform.”

Deepening Venezuela-Iran Alliance Stokes Concern
(CNSNews.com)
– The United States watches closely and follows links between Iran and Venezuela “very seriously,” the State Department said in response to fresh claims of a deepening collaboration between the two governments hostile to the U.S. Spokesman Ian Kelly said allegations made by veteran Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau this week – that Iran and Venezuela were “creating a cozy financial, political, and military partnership” — were serious and would be looked into.

U.S. Envoy Warns Iran Is Almost Capable of Building Atomic Bomb
(CNSNews.com)
– With a deadline to cooperate or face tougher sanctions fast approaching, Iran has presented a new “proposal” relating to its nuclear program to a group of leading governments. Iran’s response came on the same day that a U.S. envoy told the United Nations nuclear watchdog that Iran was nearing “breakout” capability – the point at which it could, if it took the decision to do so, build an atomic bomb.

 Obama: Now is Time to Deliver on Health Care 

American Congregations Show Some Signs of Vitality 

ADF Receives $9.2M to Defend Free Speech at Universities 

Ky. Church to Ordain Registered Sex Offender 

Court Rejects Disgraced Baptist Leader’s Bid to Stop Election 

 
Eight Years After Terror Attacks, Threat Remains Real and Evolving
(CNSNews.com)
– Despite counter-terrorism successes and the absence of a major and dramatic attack in the West, the security threat posed by radical Islamists remains real and dynamic, as al-Qaeda mutates into an increasingly unstructured but no less dangerous entity, according to experts monitoring the organization.

Support for Suicide Bombings and Bin Laden Still High Among Some Muslims
(CNSNews.com)
– A new survey gauging Muslim attitudes indicates that backing for suicide bombings against civilians, while generally down from earlier years, remains significant in some Islamic countries – challenging the assertion that Muslims supporting terrorism constitute a “tiny minority.”

Obama’s Speech Prompts Ten Questions from Republicans
(CNSNews.com)
– House Republicans on Thursday issued ten “common-sense” questions arising from President Barack Obama’s Wednesday-night speech plugging health care reform. The questions – and the words that prompted them – appear here verbatim…

Pro-Life Congressmen and Planned Parenthood Agree: Health Care Bill Funds Abortion
(CNSNews.com)
– In his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama said the health care plan he is pushing will not provide federal money for abortions. But pro-life congressmen and Planned Parenthood agree that abortion would be covered under the plan under an amendment sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.).

Pelosi: We’ll ‘Squeeze’ Medicare to Pay for Health Care Bill
(CNSNews.com)
– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that Congress will pay for half of the $1 trillion health care reform bill that President Obama wants enacted by “squeezing” Medicare and Medicaid to wring out what she called “waste, fraud, abuse, redundancy, obsolescence and whatever it is.”

Conservative Pollster Defends CNN Poll on Audience Perception of Obama’s Speech
(CNSNews.com)
– Conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway Thursday defended the integrity of CNN’s Wednesday night poll of those who watched President Obama’s speech to Congress on health-care reform. On Thursday, some conservatives in Washington were buzzing about the poll’s sample – and questioning whether it might have been partisan or slanted, since only 18 percent of respondents “identified themselves as Republicans.”

Despite Recession and Rising Unemployment, Rate of Uninsured Did Not Increase, Says Census Bureau Data
(CNSNews.com)
– Even though the nation was in a recession and unemployment rates were rising, the percentage of people lacking health insurance in the United States did not increase during 2008, according to data released today by the Census Bureau. There was also a slight movement of people from private insurance into government insurance — including seniors moving into Medicare.

Obama speech ‘a litany of lies’
The Media Research Center is demanding that the media reports President Obama’s “lies, distortions, and exaggerations” delivered in his speech on healthcare reform Wednesday night.

9-11 widow still finding hope, healing
Author Jennifer Sands has a special reason to remember the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

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Design of the Week – Crossover – Oboist to do List

June 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Designs of the Week | Leave a comment
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This week’s design has to do with music. It is a to do list for those people who work hard to play the oboe.  Anyone who plays or has played an instrument for any amount of time knows how much time and dedication it takes to get good.

That is what stood out to me in this design. I don’t know what all is involved in playing the oboe (I played the trumpet and only had three valves to worry about…). Just reading through this list gives me a little indication as to what the oboist has to go through and that’s plenty.

If you play the oboe or know someone who does, this would be a great gift for them! If you are interested in music, then you need to check out the Musicall shop!

https://ateasetees.wordpress.com/

http://www.blogbydonna.com/

http://cafeshoppe.com/TeeHee

http://www.nanwrightart.com

http://randomshirts.blogspot.com/

http://skeetzteez.blogspot.com/

http://www.shopkeeperdesigns.com

http://autismshowucare.blogspot.com

http://www.gocamelphotos.blogspot.com/

http://beflip.blogspot.com/

http://tshirtholiday.blogspot.com/

CCM is a trainwreck!

March 31, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Christianity | 3 Comments
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I’ll be honest… I don’t listen to much Contemporary Christian Music these days (gasp!). One of the reasons is because I like to hear the songs that I want to hear when I want to hear them. I can do that with a CD. But that’s not the main reason. The main reason that I don’t really listen to CCM much anymore is because of the direction that much of it seems to be going. It seems to be a growing trend in CCM to write songs that are “uplifting” but have little to do with anything that Christianity is about. If you didn’t know that it was a CCM song, you might think that it was a secular love song being sung by one lover to another. Others teach weak or aberrant theology and it seems to be ok because it’s got the word Christian in the title. Many also seem to speak for God, but are they saying what He said?

 

After awhile, it just gets sickening to hear a breathless man/woman sing to Jesus like He’s their lover. It also gets trying when you hear bad theology coming through Christian music. Whatever happened to Jesus being holy and righteous? What happened to respecting God for who He is? One of the saddest parts (aside from a seeming total disrespect for God’s character) is that the most popular “Christian” bands around sing many of these songs today. I guess that this shouldn’t surprise me though. Many churches don’t preach or teach theology anymore either. Generations of young people are growing up hearing songs that tell them very little about the truth of God just like their teachers and pastors are at church. Many of the songs talk about love, hope, and joy, but say nothing about the source of those things. Very few mention sin, hell, or judgment. A lot of the “Christian” songs don’t even mention Jesus! Does anyone else see something wrong with this? These are supposed to be CHRISTIAN songs!!! What is more important: Singing songs that a majority of people (Christian and non-Christian) will like (under the guise of “reaching out to the lost”) so that you can sell the most records; or, actually singing the truth of Christ and telling people about sin, hell, and judgment and THEN giving them the hope of the true Jesus? Granted, one of these two options will make you a lot more money than the other, but if your focus is on selling records and making money, then call yourself a secular singer and let Christians sing Christian music.

 

In an effort to show what I’m talking about, I got some of the lyrics of the top 20 CCM songs over the past couple months. Are these songs really glorifying Christ? Are they teaching correct theology?

 

I wish I was more of a man, have you ever felt that way?
And if I had to tell you the truth I’m afraid I’d have to say
That after all I’ve done and failed to do
I feel like less than I was meant to be

What if I could fix myself maybe then I could get free?
I could try to be somebody else who’s much better off than me
But I need to remember this
That it’s when I’m at my weakest I can clearly see

He made the lame walk and the dumb talk
And He opened blinded eyes to see
That the sun rises on His time
Yet He knows our deepest desperate need

And the world waits while His heart aches
To realize the dream
I wonder what life would be like
If we let Jesus live through you and me
           Excerpt from Big Daddy Weave’s “What Life Would Be Like”

 

Is this sound theology? Can we “fix” ourselves? What dream is the world waiting to see realized? Is it up to us to let Jesus live through us? I was under the understanding that we live through Him (1 John 4:9). I’ve always been taught that we can’t fix ourselves and that it’s Jesus who “fixes” us. Does scripture talk about a dream being realized? Is the salvation of the people across the world a dream? Does Jesus’ heart ache? I’m sure that it bothers Him when people reject salvation through Him, but wouldn’t offended be a more accurate word? When people die in their sins I’m sure that God doesn’t like it (2 Peter 3:9), and I know that Jesus healed the lame, dumb, and blind; but that’s all we seem to focus on nowadays.

 

Here’s another one:

 

He never thought he cared so much about the minute hand
Until he started praying for, a second chance
If he could only do it all again
He’d trade the long nights that he spent behind his desk
For all he missed

He tells his wife, “I wish that this moment in this room was not me dying, but just spending a little time with you.”

You only get just one time around
You only get one shot at this
One chance, to find out
The one thing that you don’t wanna miss
One day when it’s all said and done
I hope you see that it was enough, this
One ride, one try, one life…
To love….

          Excerpt from 33miles’ “One Life to Live”

 

Is this considered a Christian song because it has the word praying in the lyrics? Or is this a deeply veiled reference to Hebrews 9:27 (And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment)? Is all the syrupy, sentimental music necessary? How does this teach about Christianity at all? I even agree with the fact that you only get one chance, but is there a more scripturally sound way to say it?

 

Here’s one that sounds like a secular love song:

If everything comes down to love
Then just what am I afraid of
When I call out Your name
Something inside awakes in my soul
How quickly I forget I’m Yours

(PRE-CHORUS)
I’m not my own
I’ve been carried by You
All my life

(CHORUS)
Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free

          Excerpt from Addison Road’s “Hope Now”

 

Sure, the You and Yours are capitalized, but how many are going to see while listening to this? They don’t even mention the source of the love that “sets them free”! I really don’t see how this is Christian at all… Are we just supposed to assume that it is? If you didn’t know that this was a “Christian” band, would you be able to tell?

 

Ok, here’s one more and it’s one that really irks me:

 

Can you hear, there’s a new song
Breaking out from the children of freedom
Every race and every nation
Sing it out sing a new Hallelujah

Let us sing love the nations
Bringing hope of the grace that has freed us
Make Him known and make Him famous
Sing it out sing a new Hallelujah

 

Arise
let the church Arise
Let love reach to the other side
Alive come alive
Let the song Arise

Africa sings a new song
reaching out with the new Hallelujah
Every son and every daughter
everyone sing a new Hallelujah

          Excerpt from Michael W. Smith’s “A New Hallelujah”

This one gets up my nose because it says nothing about God (other than two pronouns – He and Him – with no indication of who they talk about) and yet it is from one of the most well known Christian artists! What does this song mean? Why would I want to sing a “new hallelujah”? Hallelujah means “praise ye Jah”. It is an adoring exclamation to God. Do we need a new one? Also, is it our purpose to make God “famous”? Is God worried about fame like Christian singers seem to be these days? It talks about hope and grace and joy and love, but what about the rest of the truth? What about the fact that those things can only come through an understanding of sin and repentance?

 

Before I go on, I should explain that I understand that not every song is going to be chock full of theology and loaded with scripture (why not?), but these songs are on the TOP 20 CCM songs list! These are the some of the most requested songs of today and hardly any of them talk about Christianity! Christianity isn’t just about hope, love, joy, peace, and a better life. It’s about sin, hell, judgment, righteousness, obedience, and wrath too but no one seems to want to even talk about this stuff. Like I said above, I understand that not every song is going to be brimming with theology, but shouldn’t that be our goal? As Christians, as the people ordained by God to share the truth of the gospel, shouldn’t we be using every chance we get to tell others the truth? Shouldn’t we be using our music to make sin apparent and warn people about the wrath to come so that they flee to the cross? Could the new crop of CCM coming out these days be an indicator that these kinds of things aren’t being emphasized at church? Could it be that these songs are just a reflection of the weak, diluted teachings of the modern church? I think that this is at least partly to blame.

 

I know that there are many songs that really do uplift the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ and they make it very clear. They do talk about sin and hell and judgment, and there are even some on the Top 20 list. But, these songs are very much the minority. To give you an idea of the type of music that I’m talking about I’ll post some lyrics. One song is by Chris Tomlin It’s called “Jesus Messiah”:

 

He became sin
Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross

Love so amazing
Love so amazing

Chorus:
Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
Emmanuel
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

His body the bread
His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled
And the veil was torn

Love so amazing
Love so amazing, yeah
            – Excerpt from Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Messiah”

 

This talks about sin in the very first line! It also talks about righteousness, redemption, and the sacrifice of Christ. Later in the song, it gives glory to God. Why aren’t most Christian songs like this? Is it that hard to write songs like this, or is it less appealing to “Christian” audiences that are looking and acting more like the world? There is one other artist that I would like to focus on. I had never heard of him until some of his music was played on Wretched Radio. The artist’s name is Shai Linne. He is a hip-hop artist from Philadelphia and, along with other artists at Lampmode records, writes lyrics like this:

 

Chorus

We’re cursed from our birth, sinning from the beginning

The womb to the tomb, depraved to the grave

Astray every day, every breath brings death

In Adam all die, In Adam all die

 

We’re rebels like the devil, scheming like demons

Prideful with our idols, disgusting with our lusting

Twisted and sin-sick, selfish and helpless

In Adam all die, In Adam all die

 

Verse 1

 

Everybody knows that they’re guilty

Our conscience condemns us, shows us we’re filthy

Truth be told, we really have no answers

For why we fall short of our own moral standards

The evidence for God is simply bountiful

And it’s illogical to think we won’t be held accountable

A universal day of judgment approaches

Any rational notion of justice would presuppose this

And deep down inside, everybody knows this

But we disregard it because our deeds are atrocious

We prefer the vicious, our words are malicious

Our slurs pernicious, we find the absurd delicious

Depraved in our appetites- the things we crave are lacking light

 

Because sin’s got us enslaved and shackled tight

And if we are to understand the fruit

We need to go back and examine the root

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “In Adam All Die”

 

Do you see the theology? Sinful man, guilty conscience, judgment day; it’s all here. This is another:

 

Chorus

 

It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross

We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross

We see how You feel about sin- at the cross

Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross

It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross

We see our idolatry- at the cross

We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross

May we never take our eyes away- from the cross

 

Verse 2

 

We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound

With God at the helm it’s about to go down

The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice

The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice

Willingly, He’s under the curse

To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth

The scene is the craziest

Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist

How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit

As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?

The One who’s sinless and just

Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust

The source of all godly pleasure

Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molestor

How could He be bruised like He was a goodie two-shoes

who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?

He’s perfect in love and wisdom

But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system

We should mourn at the backdrop

Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop

What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite

But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites

He’s the Light, but being treated like

He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife

 

He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer

Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer

Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside

Filled with inner pride while committing genocide

I could write for a billion years and still can’t name

All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain

But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated

The glory and the holiness of God vindicated

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “The Cross (3 Hours)”

 

This entire song is about the cross. Not only what it did, by why it happened and what it means to mankind in general. Why isn’t this the norm in Christian music? The last song I’m going to share from Shai Linne is called “Atonement Q and A”. This song alone should put most Christian artists to shame. Shai Linne has basically taken some of the most important theological words and defined them through rhyme:

 

Verse 1

 

Who is God? God is the universe’s Creator

And Sustainer plus the only Savior, there is no one greater

He triune, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, absolute

Loving, sovereign and righteous are a few of His attributes

How do we know this? Well, we know this from the Bible

Where God has revealed Himself- anything else is just an idol

What’s the Bible about? Man’s complete ruin in sin

And what God has done in Christ to bring us to Him again

What is sin? Sin is the breaking of God’s law

Plus our condition, which means from birth we all got flaws

What’s the result? The result is by nature we’re God’s enemies

And must pay the penalty unless God provides the remedy

What the remedy? The remedy is the cross of Christ

Where He suffered all the strikes for the lawless type

I’ve been rescued by the Lamb, I’m convinced that He’s risen

And blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven!

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “Atonement Q and A”

 

I’m not saying that Shai Linne has a corner on theologically sound songs. I’m not saying that there are no other artists that have God-glorifying songs. What I am saying is that these songs are in short supply and are being drowned out by thousands of songs that have nothing about the truth of God in them sung by “bubblegum Christian” bands who hope to cash in on the CCM fad. We don’t need pop-star Christians singing breathlessly about God. We don’t need hard rock bands posing as Christian bands to “reach a certain audience”. What we need are Christians who sing. We need people who are sound in their theology to write and sing songs. Singing songs is great, but it’s not going to save you or anyone else…

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