Blaspheming God’s Name By Actions

Question: Would believers not obeying God, thus “embarrassing “ God, be a
form of taking the Lords name in vain?

This is an interesting question and I think it makes a valid biblical point. In Romans Paul says this to his hypothetical Jewish reader. “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom. 2:23-24 ESV)

We could extend that logic and say that we who bear the name of Christ run the same risk. If we boast in Christ but live unholy lives, we invite the world to blaspheme his name. Though we are not forming the words on our own lips the outcome is the same.  By our hypocrisy we expose the name of Christ to abuse.

Let us remind ourselves that we’ve been appointed to be salt and light in this wicked age.  Salt must not lose its saltiness and light must not be hidden under a bushel. If there is unrepentant sin in our lives, we need to turn, confess and bring our lives under submission to His Lordship.

 

When bad things happen to good people

 

Question: This question appeared recently. People commonly ask, “How can a loving god allow bad things to happen to good people?” How do you respond?

First, there are at least two very different ways this question gets asked. I will do my best to give a reasonable answer to both.

Let’s assume that the person asking the question is a believer, but he or she has faced something grievous and painful. The question isn’t hypothetical, and it’s not an argument against the existence or goodness of God. Instead, the question reveals the heart of one who is earnestly seeking reassurance but struggling with doubt.

First, I would remind them that God has demonstrated the greatest possible love to them, by sending Jesus to die for them while they were yet sinners. I would point them toward Roman 8:28, and remind them that God works all things to their good. I would read further in Romans 8 to remind them that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ.

Yes, what they have gone through was painful. Jesus told us that the rain would fall on the just and the unjust alike. Job said to his wife, “shall we receive good from God and not receive evil?” Bad things do not mean that God is punishing us. Rather, we know that God is fashioning us into the image of Christ, and that he uses sometimes-painful pruning in our lives to bring further conformity to his image. He also uses these things for His glory.

Furthermore, I would remind them that our afflictions here are considered “light and momentary” compared to the glory we will experience. God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no death, sin or suffering.

There would be much more I could say, and I would tailor what I said to that person’s situation.

On the other hand, this question is sometimes an argument used by atheists to deny the existence of an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful god. They seek a rebuttal to an argument. We are supposed to provide a so-called “theodicy” which means a vindication of God’s sovereignty and love in a world where evil exists.

I am not a trained apologist, but I might tell them that the Bible does have answers, but that they may simply not like those answers very much. God, to be God must be perfect in all his attributes. That means that his justice and his love are both infinite.

When Adam sinned against God, evil became part of man’s experience. We all die because of that sin. We all add to that sin, more sin upon sin. An all-holy, omnipotent creator had every right to destroy us, condemn us to hell and be done.

But God, in his perfect love, chose to rescue a people unto himself. He perfectly satisfied both his justice and his mercy at the cross. Evil is what we deserve, but we have received grace. The question is not really; why to bad things happen to good people, but why does so much good happen to bad people.

There is a kind of arrogance among certain individuals who think that the problem of evil is something new, novel and unanswerable. The truth is, this question is a dominant theme in the scripture, and has been asked and answered for millennia. In effect, the answer to their question is at the heart of the gospel.

Yes, evil exists. And God in mercy has given His son to redeem all those who repent and believe in Him. Evil will be vanquished with finality, but the evil ones made righteous will shine like the light of the sun in their Father’s kingdom.

Perhaps, I would ask such a person. Do you really want God to deal with the problem of evil in you?

 

 

Cretan or Cretin

Have you ever been called either a Cretan or a cretin? Both terms can be meant as insults but have different spellings and slightly different meanings. A “Cretan” is a person from the island of Crete.  If you call someone a Cretan in that sense, you are saying that they are like the stereotypical resident of ancient Crete.

Paul pigeonholes the Cretans this way (and it’s not remotely politically correct), “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Tit. 1:12 ESV) Paul shoots from the hip, but he’s not wrong.  Though Crete had been inhabited for centuries, during the New Testament time period, the island had become a haven for pirates. Titus, whom Paul left on Crete, had his work cut out for him.

“Cretin”, with an “i” is an intended slur, a synonym for “idiot”.  The origin of the term is fascinating.  In the Alps, a distinct type of congenital defect was common. Cretinism is a disease caused by a lack of iodine, which in turn leads to a birth defect consisting in short stature and mental impairment. A cretin suffers from this abnormality.

But how did cretinism get named?  “Cretin” is derived from the French word that means Christian.  The local Christians wanted to show kindness to these developmentally challenged individuals. Whereas some people regarded cretins as subhuman, they chose to regard them as brothers. They called them by the name “Christian” (cretin) to emphasize the worth of their human souls.  Being called a “cretin” may be intended as an insult, but it is a reminder as well, that God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.

Happily then, “Cretan” and “cretin” are both words that remind us of the redemptive power of the gospel. In the case of “Cretans”, we know that Christ redeemed many on that island for himself.  The gospel of Christ can change pirates into saints of God. In the case of “cretins”, the gospel of Christ redeemed a whole culture’s view of the developmentally disabled.  Christ’s love in the gospel redeems Cretans and cretins for God’s glory.

Tip of the day: If someone calls you a “cretin” ask your detractor to spell it, define it, and then tell him how the gospel changes everything.  It changed you, dear cret*n.

 

Pastor Jay Beuoy

New City Catechism – Week 52

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“All Glory Be to Christ”
(Hymn #133 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q52: What hope does everlasting life hold for us?

A52: It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and the new earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation.

Our culture bombards us with a message. “Stay young. Hold on to what you have. Squeeze this life of every possible pleasure, because it’s all you have. Don’t lose out.” Age is no longer wisdom, but loss. Dying is tragic and evidence that if God exists, he must be stingy and harsh.

The Christian lives with a countercultural worldview. We know that our best days are not behind but ahead. Certainly, in this world, we have many good things. God provides our daily bread. God has made everything under the sun beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but he also tells us that, in this world, we will have troubles (John 16:33) and that our outer life will waste away (2 Cor 4:16).

No, we confidently hope in that life to come with Christ. Though we are like grass that withers and the flower that fades, yet we know that in our redeemed bodies, we will see God. “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:10).

He will come again. We will be raised incorruptible and made like Him. We will be together with our Lord. He will establish His consummated Kingdom apart from any vestige of resistance. God will dwell with man in a restored new heaven and earth. He will reign eternally and bring in everlasting joy. In His presence, there will be pleasures forevermore. We will delight in His glory without end.

-Pastor Jay

New City Catechism – Week 51

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“Come Praise and Glorify”
(Hymn #44 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q51: Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension?

A51: Christ physically ascended on our behalf, just as he came down to earth physically on our account, and he is now advocating for us in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for us, and also sends us his Spirit.

It’s simple math really. Subtraction takes away. A child doesn’t understand the concept or rules of subtraction, but he quickly realizes that he had something and now he doesn’t. When it comes to things we like or need, we don’t want that taken away. I saw a funny meme the other day: wrap several empty boxes and put them under the Christmas tree. When your child acts up, take one of the boxes and throw it in the fireplace. Not really good parenting, but it illustrates the how painful subtraction can be!

The book of Acts starts with Jesus again spending time with his disciples. It must have been an incredible moment. He was in his glorified body since he had died and rose again. The conversations they must have had would have been so interesting. Then, suddenly, he is ascending to heaven. The two angels ask them why they’re looking up to the sky since Jesus is coming back again someday.

I’ve always thought that was a silly question. This man whom they’ve followed for years now has gone into the clouds and they ask why they’re looking. They miss their friend and savior! Jesus is literally the greatest person ever to walk the earth and he’s now gone. It’s the ultimate in subtraction.

Knowing the complete story, we see how Christ left so the Holy Spirit could come into believers. But they didn’t get that yet. They’re devastated. Even today, I would love to have Christ be here physically on earth. Why then did Christ need to ascend?

As I mentioned before, Christ explains that part of the reason he ascended was to allow the Holy Spirit to come into believers. Paul explains more of the reasoning in Romans 8, specifically in Romans 8:31-39. Paul gives a clear explanation of exactly where Christ is and why he is there. He’s at the right hand of God which is a place of priority and prominence. He’s there because he’s interceding for us constantly to God the Father.

While subtraction is often negative, clearly we are still benefitting from Christ’s ascension. What an incredible God we serve!

-Pastor Jon

 

New City Catechism – Week 50

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“O Great God”
(Hymn #35 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q50: What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us?

A50: Christ triumphed over sin and death by being physically resurrected, so that all who trust in him are raised to new life in this world and to everlasting life in the world to come. Just as we will one day be resurrected, so this world will one day be restored. But those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to everlasting death.

Last week we considered the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection and his rule of his kingdom from the Father’s right hand. This week we will look at that reality in a different light: how it affects us. Or put another way, “given the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, what does that mean for our daily lives?”

Let’s answer that question by looking at three implications of Christ’s resurrection for us: a pattern, a promise, and a warning. First, we see that the resurrection of Jesus is a pattern. 1 Cor 15:20-23 explains that just as Jesus was physically raised from the dead, so will believers be raised again to glorious eternal life with him. Just as Jesus was raised physically, believers will also be raised in our physical bodies, although transformed by God into glorious, incorruptible bodies (1 Cor 15:42-44).

But we do not have to wait until the resurrection of the dead to see the benefits of Christ’s resurrection, since it also contains a promise for us. The promise is that just as Christ was raised, we are raised to new life while still in this world (Rom 6:4). God does not leave on our own to “do our best” with this religion thing. Rather, we have the power of Christ living in us so that we can live by faith (Gal 2:20). He is at work in us to preserve us until the day he returns (Phil 2:12) and to produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

Christ’s resurrection also hold promise for the entire creation, which is broken by sin (Gen 3:17-18) and awaiting the day when it will be fully restored (Rom 8:19-21). As the Christmas hymn “Joy to the World” declares, not only will Christ defeat sins and sorrows, but also the thorns that infest the ground. We await the day when his blessings will be made known “far as the curse is found.”

The final aspect of Christ’s resurrection to consider is that it contains a warning–these blessings we have been discussing are conditional. They will come to those who have believed the gospel and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. For those who have rejected Christ, there will still be a resurrection, but it will not be to everlasting joy and blessedness. Rather, their portion will be “in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8). This is a call for everyone to honestly examine our faith to determine if it is genuine. Do you long for his return? Do you experience the hope that comes from knowing we will be with him forever? Let’s hold firmly to Christ’s resurrection and the pattern, the promise, and the warning it gives us.

-Pastor Jonathan

 

New City Catechism – Week 49

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“Crown Him With Many Crowns”
(Hymn #129 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q49: Where is Christ now?

A49: Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us, until he returns to judge and renew the whole world.

Christ rose from the dead in a material body. This is the uniform testimony of the gospels and New Testament letters. Paul summarizes this in 1 Corinthians 15, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:4).

By appearances, Paul refers to the fact that Jesus showed himself bodily to the disciples. They touched him, heard his voice and even ate with him (John 20:27). They also saw him taken up into heaven and heard the angels say that he would return again as he had gone from them.

Where is Christ now? Psalm 110 foretold that Messiah would sit at God’s right hand until his enemies were made a footstool. This prophecy is referenced many times in the New Testament both by Jesus and the New Testament authors. The writer of Hebrews, for instance, quotes Ps 110 five times, e.g., “…After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb. 1:3b), cf. also Hebrews 12:2.

The right hand represents power. Jesus is reigning in heaven with His Father. He both rules and sustains creation in sovereign power (Matthew 28:18, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 3:22). Though Christ rules sovereignly, he does not rule at this time unopposed.1 Men, devils, kingdoms and rulers may set themselves against him, but in the end all will bow before Him (Phil 2:10, 1 Cor 15:24-25).

In addition to His rule, which is great comfort to His children, He also intercedes on their behalf as their faithful high priest (Hebrews 7:25, 9:24, Romans 8:24). His position next to His Father secures and guarantees our help and redemption.

-Pastor Jay

1A helpful distinction lies in the terms “sovereign” vs. “preceptive” will. God rules sovereignly such that nothing comes to pass that he has not ordained. But God commands men according to his preceptive will, which they in fact resist and disobey. Cf., RC Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith p. 67, Tyndale.

-Pastor Jay

New City Catechism – Week 48

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“Facing a Task Unfinished”
(Hymn #348 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q48: What is the church?

A48: God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.

“Literally” has become a word which stymies me a bit. People use it in the exact opposite of the definition. “They were ‘literally’ the meanest people I’ve ever known.” Were they really? Out of all the people you’ve ever met and all the horrible people you know about in history, they were the meanest? It brings up the moment from The Princess Bride when Vizzini says it’s inconceivable that the man in black is still climbing up the cliff. His cohort, Inigo Montoya, says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ”Literally” has become that word for this generation.

Within the church, there are words which are misused or misunderstood. “Community” can be that way. It’s an often-used term and one that should be a pillar in every church. However, just as having a meal at church doesn’t constitute true fellowship, having multiple people together doesn’t constitute true community. Community, by definition, isn’t simply people living together. We don’t usually think of prisons as communities. It’s more than just proximity; it’s also a common interest and common values.

When the Bible talks of the church as a community, it’s referencing a group of sinners saved by grace who are working together in the midst of diversity for the common goal of encouraging, learning, and reaching others with the gospel. It’s not simply coming together for one day a week. It’s literally people doing life together. Community within the church is sharing hurts, celebrating victories, carrying burdens, working together, and building one another up as we focus on God.

Simply put, true community is not for the faint of heart. It’s risky. People may know your hurts. But, chances are, you’ll find people with similar hurts. You may be challenged in your walk with Christ. But, chances are, you’ll find people who are wanting the same and need some accountability. Being open and honest is always risky, but the church community should be a safe place to be both.

No church has “arrived” when it comes to community. There are none that are perfect. Grace is no exception. It’s a constant work in progress. We are striving to make it better and would love if you came along with us in creating a godly community!

-Pastor Jon

New City Catechism – Week 47

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“The Communion Hymn”
(Hymn #343 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q47: Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?

A47: No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Throughout church history, there have been various interpretations of the significance of the Lord’s Supper.  A blog post like this does not give sufficient space to deal with all the different opinions. However, the catechism this week does a good job of outlining the basic Evangelical understanding of the practice.

First of all, it must remain clear that the Lord’s Supper does not add anything to Christ’s once-for-all atoning work (1 Peter 3:18). Under the Old Testament sacrificial system, repeated sacrifices were necessary. However, the work of Christ put an end to all of this (Hebrews 9:25-26, Hebrews 10:12). It is unbiblical to say that Christ somehow is re-sacrificed, re-offered, or re-presented in this ordinance.

What then is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper? We know Jesus commanded that we eat and drink in remembrance of him (Luke 22:17-19). By observing the Lord’s Supper we are proclaiming his death and resurrection (1 Cor 11:26) and looking to him in our hearts. And we are reminded to anticipate his future coming in glory (Matt 26:29). He will return in glory, and it is on that coming we set our hope.

It is also worth noting that the consistent witness of the New Testament is that the Lord’s Supper is to be practiced by the church. It is not something that individual believers should observe in private. Rather it is a fellowship meal of the gathered, visible body of believers. The Lord’s Supper binds us together as God’s people.

In the midst of this rich symbolism the Bible also gives a warning about the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is more than just a meal, it is a solemn observance instituted by Jesus Christ himself. Therefore, we must not come to it with a flippant or unexamined heart—to do so is “eat and drink judgment” (1 Cor 11:29) on oneself. The Lord’s Supper should be approached with prayerful and honest self-examination, laying our hearts open and confessing our sin to God.

The EFCA statement of faith speaks of the ordinances as “nourishing” the believer. While we come to other meals for physical nourishment, may our observance of the Lord’s Supper provide us with the rich spiritual nourishment of comfort, hope, and fellowship with the church.

-Pastor Jonathan

New City Catechism – Week 46

ncc-gcc
<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

worship-guide
Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“All Creatures of Our God and King”
(Hymn #11 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on
newcitycatechism.com

Q46: What is the Lord’s Supper?

A46: Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of him and his death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the presence of God in our midst; bringing us into communion with God and with one another; feeding and nourishing our souls. It also anticipates the day when we will eat and drink with Christ in his Father’s kingdom.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are visible ordinances or sacraments that the Lord commanded. They do not replace the preaching of the gospel but they convey the gospel in an additional and dramatic way. As baptism signifies our death to our old self and new life in Christ, so the Lord’s Supper proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

There are several key truths that the Lord’s Supper portrays regarding the gospel. First, Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me.” When we celebrate communion, we are focused on the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins. We are reminded, that as the Passover lambs were slain in the place of the firstborn children of Israel, so God’s firstborn, is put to death for the redemption of His covenant people.

Jesus told his disciples, before that last Passover supper, that he had earnestly desired to eat the meal with them before he suffered (Luke 22:15). In similar fashion, the Christian will see communion as a deep fellowship with Christ. Paul wrote that the cup we bless and the bread we break are a communion in the blood and body of Christ. When we take the elements we draw near to the Lord in our hearts and affirm once again our need of His saving work.

The catechism says that by taking this we feed and nourish our souls. Such a statement does not mean that we have a magical view of the elements. When Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26) he uses one of the same words “proclaim” as he uses for preaching the gospel. The Lord’s Table, in a very tangible way, feeds and nourishes us, as would the very preaching of the gospel. Communion is a celebration of the gospel in physical form.

Though the formula is nowhere found in scripture, we say that we “celebrate” communion.  There is good justification for doing so. The supper reminds us of our redemption from the bondage to sin, our glorious communion with Christ, His love for us in laying down his life as atoning sacrifice, and that He is coming again. So, we will continue doing so, “until he comes.”

-Pastor Jay