Saturday, September 27, 2008

Message from Heaven?

"But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”" (Luke 16:31)
Recently Don Piper, the author of 90 Minutes in Heaven spoke about his experiences at a church in Knoxville, TN. A member of the church that was in attendance in that service gave me the audio of the message. They had previously told me about his planned appearance and were really excited about the event.

I have mixed emotions when responding to things like this. My first reaction is to be skeptical and critical. My second reaction is to be careful not to crush the heart of the person that finds spiritual value in unverifiable anecdotal experiences. In the end we must balance the fine line of truth and love.

"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—" (Ephesians 4:15)

I listened to the audio of the message given to me and my suspicions were confirmed. Don Piper is a sincere person who really believes that he went to heaven, but I do not. It is more likely that he had a dream or a hallucination. Even if Don Piper did actually go to heaven and was permitted to speak of it (unlike the apostle Paul who did go to heaven and was told that it was not lawful to speak of the experience 2 Corinthians 12:4) what value would it be to the church or to the community?

In the audio message I heard Don Piper said the reason he was given the round trip ticket from earth to heaven and now back to earth was so that he “could go and tell people that heaven is real and that Jesus is the way.”

I have several fundamental problems with this reason listed below. Perhaps after reading this you can send me more or tell me what I am missing.

1. The Scriptures verify the reality of heaven. Experience is not a higher witness. [Psalm 138:2]
2. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, not by anecdotal experience. [Romans 10:17]
3. We can be fooled by experience. God’s Word is more sure than our experiences. [2 Peter 1:19]

It is the Word of God that will bring faith and faithfulness. It is alive and powerful [Hebrews 4:12] and it will accomplish what God intends it to do. [Isaiah 55:11]

Most people naturally think that if someone comes back from the dead to tell about the realities of the afterlife, then many will believe. However it will take a supernatural work of God’s grace to cause belief in the unbeliever. The means by which God has chosen to dispense His grace is directly through the proclamation of His Word, the gospel [1 John 1:1-4].

In fact, Jesus dealt directly with this hypothetical situation in Luke 16. His conclusion is as follows.

"But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”" (Luke 16:31)

Review of 90 Minutes in Heaven

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eat and Drink Jesus

"Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)

On Sunday evenings we are doing a verse by verse study of the Gospel of John. Last night we discussed John 6:52-59. This passage is often misunderstood as a reference to the Lord’s Supper.
It cannot be about communion for the following reasons:

1. Because Lord’s Supper was not instituted till the night before He was betrayed.

" For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;" (1 Corinthians 11:23)

2. Because Jesus was addressing unbelievers in John 6 [the superficial crowd from the feeding of the 5,000 and the skeptical crowd from the religious elite called “the Jews”]. while the Lord’s Supper is for Christians only.

" Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:27)

3. Because the eating and drinking spoken of in John relates to salvation, while the eating and drinking that is part of the Lord’s Supper relates to remembering Christ’s work of salvation.

"Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54)

4. Because the Lord’s Supper does not produce the same kind of results alluded to in John 6. The eating and drinking in this text yields a special union with Christ.

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." (John 6:56)

So if eating and drinking Christ is not about the Lord’s Supper then what is it about?
I suggest that it is about a deep commitment to Christ. The context of this passage discusses what it means to have faith in Christ. Jesus concludes by calling for a radical commitment to Him. We even have an expression in this culture of describing our fanatical devotion to something as “we eat, drink, and breathe…” Or in this part of the country I have often heard the expression “my blood runs orange” to describe ones appreciation of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Likewise eating and drinking in John 6 is an expression of our devotion to Jesus.

James Montgomery Boice shared a fitting illustration that provides clarification to this passage. It was so meaningful for me I thought it was worthy to repeat in its entirety.
If Jesus has not become as real to you as eating and drinking, let me suggest that you do something similar to that which a bride does in promising herself to her husband. Before the ceremony the bride can do anything she likes. In fact, if she wants to, she can even cancel the whole wedding, for she can decide even at 1:58 that she has made a mistake and cannot go through with a 2:00 ceremony. However, when the ceremony begins she comes to the place where she speaks her vows and, on the basis of those vows and those of her husband, is pronounced a wife, his wife. She is now no longer her own. At the same time, her groom pronounces his vows to her, and he becomes hers no less than she becomes his.

Apply this now to him who is the faithful lover and bridegroom of the church, and to you and me who are his bride. It is he who has courted us and wooed us. We did not choose him. It is he who has pronounced the vows first of all. His vows were pronounced in eternity long before the foundation of the world. He said, “I, Jesus, take you, John Smith (Mary Jones, or whatever your name may be), to be my wedded wife. And I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for time and for eternity.” We looked up into his loving face and eyes, believed his promise, and repeated his vow.

In the case of the church something great happened between the speaking of this promise by Christ and our repetition of it. Between his vow and our vow, Jesus went to the cross where he paid an infinite price for our sin, purchasing us so that we could be free of sin, guilt, and shame as we come to him. We see his sacrifice. With that in mind we repeat, “I, sinner, take you, Jesus, to be my wedded husband. And I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful wife, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for this life and for eternity.”

That is what faith is. That is what it means to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood. It is to commit yourself to him. It is to accept his promise and pledge on your behalf and to repeat his promise, vowing to be his for eternity. If you have done that, you have done the most important thing there is to be done in this life, regardless of what you may already have accomplished or may yet accomplish. If you have not, you should know that today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of your union with Christ, if you will have it so.

James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John : An Expositional Commentary, Pbk. ed., 525 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2005

"Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin on the value of life


"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." (Psalm 139:13-14, NKJV)

The VP pick of Sarah Palin by John McCain apparently has stirred the waters of excitement for the GOP. According to Real Clear Politics the bounce received from the GOP convention has sky rocketed the Republican ticket to a lead in the political polls. Of course the only poll that counts is the one on the day of the election.

Palin is a conservative Republican whose traditional values will resonate among conservative evangelicals. Perhaps for the first time in this election season the GOP has given hope to those give moral values a primary consideration when choosing candidates.

The fact that Palin choose to give life to her child with Downs syndrome may help highlight the value of human life to our citizens. Kirk from Pittsburg, a caller to the Rush Limbaugh radio program, shared with Rush about a campaign stop meeting with the McCain family and the Palin family. The caller, was thrilled to meet them, but even more so to know that Palin understands the unique blessing of all children regardless of their disabilities.

You see Kirk is also a parent of a Downs syndrome child. He brought his daughter Chloe to the event and when Palin spotted her she asked if she could hold her, then picked her up and gave her a hug.

Human life is always valuable because it is uniquely made in the image of God.

"But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16, NKJV)

Rush Limbaugh Article