Confident Faith - December 2016

When Eternal Agape Came Down to Us. I’ve previously written about the Trinity being a “solution” rather than a “problem” for Christians, particularly as it provides an eternal foundation for love (agape). Love was not created but is an eternal, personal, binding characteristic of the three persons of the Trinity.

Islam claims Allah is self-sufficient, eternal, and loving, but since Allah is a monad – god in one person, this is a contradiction. Love requires something to love. This makes Allah dependent on something else for an essential and eternal characteristic. Islam vehemently rejects the Christian Trinitarian God, but this biblical formulation of one God in three persons provides a coherent foundation for a relational and loving God where Islam fails.

Below is a quote from the book: “No God but One: Allah or Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi (in the church library) that adds to our appreciation of Agape love through the Trinity.

“This is not a trivial difference [between Islam and Christianity], though; it has major implications. Since mankind is made in the image of the triune God, love is woven into our very nature. The Trinity gives us the most consistent, most powerful basis for being self sacrificial and altruistic.

This is an important point to unpack. Of course, many people are very altruistic, regardless of their worldviews. A person does not need to believe in God to genuinely care for others, as secular humanists demonstrate. There are even people who do not believe in any kind of morality yet still desire to care for people. Ultimately, though, such ungrounded altruism is a sentiment, something a person just wants to do. Unless one believes in a transcendent basis for altruism, one’s desire to care for people is unanchored and ephemeral, little more than a whim. According to this amoral worldview, nothing behooves a person to be kind. Even though someone might wish to be altruistic, in the next moment it would be entirely consistent with their worldview if they chose to be selfish.”

Agape is so much greater than just optional altruism. At Christmas, we celebrate the transcendent agape take on human form, be born as a baby, and dwell among us that we might see what love really is – all the way to a cross.

I hope this adds to your appreciation of Christmas – when eternal agape came down to us, and made the way for us to join into the eternal loving fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Merry Christmas.

Harold Henderson

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Confident Faith - October 2017

Who do you see when you think about yourself? That's your identity. If you only see gender, race, religion, job, position, wealth, etc., then you are only seeing the superficial - not what you were created to be.

Jesus said, "One thing you lack."

At this point the man may have thought, "Here comes the collection plate." Perhaps he may have been willing to give 10%, 30%, or maybe even 50% of his great wealth to ensure his salvation if the teacher asked that much.

Jesus continued, "Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mark 10:17-27) He told this man he must destroy his self-identity (RICH) and let the one true identity (Jesus) take its place (follow Me).

"ALL? He wants me to give everything? My identity is RICH. That's who I am. That's losing everything ... like dying." Unwilling to pay that price, the man turned away losing infinitely more than his wealth.

Jesus said we must deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23). This calls us to crucify the false identity that has enslaved us and put on the Imago Dei (image of God) that frees us as we were created to be.

With "Let us create man in our image" (Gen 1:26-27), God imprinted man with a divine identity, and it was very good, but sin turned us into Gollum - loving "Precious" (ourselves) above all else. Gollum's identity was a ring. The young ruler's identity was his wealth. What is yours?

Confident faith comes from a firm foundation. Only Christ provides that.

Harold

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Confident Faith - September 2017

Ever hear the comeback, "The church is full of hypocrites," when you share the Gospel?

Here is one of many ways to answer this challenge. It plays on the fact that someone has confused the failings of people with the truth of the message they are carrying. You want to gently expose the confusion and steer the conversation back to the message.

Give an example: There was a relatively young, obese, chain-smoking doctor. One day he dropped dead of a massive heart attack. Had he counseled his patients on over-eating and smoking as shortcuts to early death, most would have considered him a hypocrite.

Did his hypocrisy make the message he preached untrue? Not at all. The truth/untruth of his message is independent of his behavior. Likewise, Christianity stands/or falls on whether the core Gospel message is True - whether it really happened in history approximately 2000 years ago (1 Cor 15:12-17). (For the evidential case for the Gospel, see "Cold Case Christianity" by J. Warner Wallace in the church library.)

Confess that Christians do fall, but the failings of people in the church are not evidence that the message is untrue. The Gospel message calls imperfect people to walk a high path. We fall. We seek forgiveness, get up, and resume the upward climb the message calls us to.

That Gospel message has a name, Jesus. Do you know him? (and now you are back on message)

Harold

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Confident Faith - August 2017

Yesterday morning as I was walking with my dog in our subdivision, I saw a young lady walking toward us. About 25 yards away, we exchanged southern nods. As she got closer, I said, "Beautiful morning," but there was no answer or acknowledgement. Then I noticed the ear buds and phone. She was lost in her phone. I didn't feel particularly slighted as this has sadly become almost normal ... particularly in younger generations. I did wonder if she even saw the beauty God painted in the landscape, breeze, and sky. Humans 0; Technology 1.

Your cell phone is changing you and your children and the world. Have you noticed?

There's a new book in the church library - "12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You" - that is well worth reading. The book is very easy to read and is not anti-technology. The introduction gives a Theology of Technology. Beside discussing how our electronic devices are changing our lives for the worse, the author also gives suggestions both to counter the negative aspects and enhance the positive for the Kingdom. Many checklists are included to help you see whether you are using technology or technology is using you.

Here is the checklist at the end of the first of the "12 Ways": "We Are Addicted to Distraction". "Do my smartphone habits: 1. expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements? 2. reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed? 3. distract me from genuine communion with God? 4. provide an easy escape from sobered thinking about my death, the return of Christ, and eternal realities? 5. preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success? 6. mute the sporadic leading of God’s Spirit in my life? 7. preoccupy me with dating and romance? 8. build up Christians and my local church? 9. center on what is necessary to me and beneficial to others? 10. disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of  me?" (Reinke, Tony. 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (p. 52). Crossway.)

I would particularly urge parents to read this book. We all need to be aware of the temptations new technology brings, but our children and youth have been born into this technology with no idea of what is being replaced and missed. This is the new normal for them. We cannot allow generations of Christians to be techno-morphed into a virtual self-driven/satisfying false reality. They need to be guided to use technology for God's Glory. Adults also need to be aware of the example we are setting as little eyes watch us.

This is also a view into the culture we are to bring the Gospel.

Harold

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Confident Faith - July 2017

[dropcap]In last month's column, I asked you to identify the Greek word for the english "love" used in the two greatest commandments given by Jesus. I also gave you extended definitions for the Greek "love" words used in the Bible: phileō, storgē, and agapē. If you need to review those definitions, they are here - "Confident Faith June 2017" at https://cookbc.org/staff-columns/apologetics/388-confident-faith-june-2017.

I have asked these questions of many Christians over the years. Almost all get one right and one wrong.

Almost everyone correctly identifies "agapē" as the Greek behind "love" in the first greatest commandment - "Love the LORD your God ..." (Mark 12:30), and almost everyone incorrectly picks "phileō" as the Greek for "love" in the second commandment - "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). "Love" in the second commandment is exactly the same as in the first - Agapē!

Agapē is a completely unselfish and unearned giving based on the intrinsic worth of the other. Jesus is commanding us to love our neighbor in the very same Agapē used in John 3:16 where "God so loved (Agapē) the world ..." The same Agapē is used in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

From beginning to end, the Bible is the story of a radical and all but unfathomable love. Agapē is the eternal, selfless glue binding three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - in one unity of essence - God. Agapē was shared in our creation - "Let Us make man in Our image." If we are commanded to Agapē God, then aren't we to also Agapē His image stamped in our neighbor?

The world says all will be OK if we just "love our neighbor as ourself", but that will ultimately fail because the world does not know the Agapē love of God. The closest human example of Agapē should be a mother's love for her child, yet the world corrupts that love promoting abortion as a mother's right - Agapē turned to death.

We live in a society desperately wanting Agapē, but it cannot without first knowing God through the Gospel. We (the church) would not know Agapē were it not shown to us - "We love because he first loved us," 1 John 4:19.

No, the world will never know Agapē ... unless we 1) understand the command to Agapē our neighbor, and 2) show them in our actions and words.

Harold

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