Monday, March 29, 2010

Hosanna in His Lowest

By: Mitch Lynn

The phrase “Triumphal Entry” says it all. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, just as the prophet Zechariah had predicted—“say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” I used to picture Jesus coming into Jerusalem like Prince Ali in Aladdin, with elephants dancing and monkeys breakdancing to ‘Party in the USA’ by Miley Cyrus. I mean, what isn’t great about the crowd laying down palm branches and even their garments as they shout “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest”? So why on a day when I should be joyous and celebrating am I feeling sad, and a tad depressed? It is because this was NOT a high point for Jesus. In fact, Luke explains that this is one of the lowest points in Jesus’ life: ‘as He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it’. Take away the music, the elephants, and the pop-locking monkeys, and what do you have? Picture a Jewish carpenter sitting on a donkey, His worn feet dragging on dirt and rocks, weeping over an unrepentant city. As this man enters the city people are celebrating something, but not Him. ‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, Who is this? The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee’. 3 years of ministry and not even his disciples understood (John 12:16). Jesus entered the city distressed and upset. Those who screamed “Hosanna, hosanna!” cried out , “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”five days later. The disciples that followed Him 3 long years will soon betray Him. The ones that claim to have loved Him will deny they ever knew Him. As the crowd shouted “Hosanna in the highest,” I can imagine Jesus sitting on that smelly donkey, weeping over the sin of humanity.

So as we wave our palm branches and sing ‘Hosanna Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest’, remember that our sin is the reason He was put on that cross on that Good Friday, and it was our sin that struck the nails, and we are the reason he needed to die.

Father, thank you for your Son. Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Difficult Mission Trip

"Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." Mark 10:29-30

Jesus says that anyone who leaves his family behind for His sake and for the Gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this time and in eternity. But what of someone who goes to his family for Christ's sake and for the Gospel? I think the same principle holds true.

Without going into too much detail into my personal family life, I will soon be going to visit my mother, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and others for five days. This side of my family are unbelievers. This has been a huge burden for me growing up and, while I have had opportunities to share and have done so, this is the first time that I am going with an intent to share the Gospel.

The past two years have been a huge growing time for me. I have always had a realization that Christians MUST verbally share their faith, but only in the past couple of years have I truly come to understand that significance and applied it to my life.

Today I will be going on the single most difficult mission trip of my life. My intent is to verbally share the Gospel with my family as well as be a light with my actions. I ask for your prayers over the course of the next five days- that God would regenerate and awaken and break stony, hard hearts; that my family will repent of their sins and believe the Gospel of Christ; and that God would be glorified.

Please pray that I have courage to witness. I love sharing the Gospel. But sharing the Gospel with your family can be difficult, challenging, and complicated. However, souls are on the line and I can do nothing else but preach the Word in season and out of season.

Oh God, help me. Oh God, save them. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Thoughts on Soulforce

By Matt Tyler

Today, I was interviewed for my thoughts on Soulforce coming to SBU. For those who do not know, Soulforce is an organization that by "relentless nonviolent resistance, works to end the religious and political oppression of Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people." Every year they go on an "Equality Ride" in order to visit campuses to promote Soulforce's cause and beliefs. Many of the colleges visited are members of the Counil for Christian colleges and Universities. In other words, they believe my university's policies are discriminatory against LGBTQ students.

Much can be said about this and I am quite certain that I will have future blog posts on this subject, especially as the day approaches. Today, however, I was interviewed about my thoughts on Soulforce coming to SBU. Once the article is written I will try and get permission to post it on the blog, but for now I will post some of my responses to these questions. I took with me some notes (okay, more like paragraphs) on the points I wanted to make sure to stay on. I did not say everything I wrote down and I said things I did not write down, but this is a general overview of my thoughts on the subject (I added a bit from the draft I took with me to clear some things up).

What are your personal beliefs on homosexuality?

I want to make sure that I go back to Scripture for everything. My Christianity affects my outlook on all aspects of life. So I want to see what the Word of God says about it. The Bible is God breathed and therefore my ultimate standard. My standard is not science, popular opinion, or the fear of hurting others' feelings. The Bible is clear in both Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 that homosexuality is a sin. Those verses are clear. Romans 1 is clear that, when people continue in sin and unbelief, God "gives them over" to their wickedness in order to show the hopelessness of life apart from God. Of course, I also believe that all sinners, including myself, are deserving of God's wrath. Our sin is offensive to God and we deserve to be punished for them. The good news, though, is that all people, including homosexuals, can be forgiven, on the basis of God grace, if they turn from their sins and trust in Christ for salvation. And God promises victory over sin to those who trust in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). However, the Bible is clear in Romans 6:11-14, Romans 8, and 1 John 1:5-7 that those who truly have repented and trusted in Christ will not continue in sin. While all Christians fight sin, and they will so until Heaven, true Christians will not live a lifestyle that is characterized by sin. Therefore a practicing homosexual, along with anyone who continues practicing willful known sin, is not a true believer. The difference is that a Christian fights, struggles, and falls into sin, while the unbeliever blatantly continues to sin refusing to acknowledge God. The normal pattern of life for the Christian is a progressive growth in sanctification.

How do you feel about Soulforce coming to SBU?

This is a question I want to be as clear as possible on. SBU has been working very hard since Soulforce announced they were coming. I know a lot of work has gone into this, a lot of things have been discussed; hopefully a lot of prayers have been prayed. There are factors that I am sure I do not know. In addition, I am a student with limited info. And so for those reasons I don't know if I have a right to speak definitively on this situation. I have sat in a few RA meetings with other students, as well as in a meeting with faculty and staff, and I have personally talked with Rob Harris. I have seen and heard things in those meetings that have both encouraged me and discouraged me. Overall, I think that SBU has handled this situation with care. I am certain that there are things that I probably would have handled differently. Perhaps there are things that should have been considered that were not. But let me put it this way: Whether or not it is appropriate that SBU is allowing Soulforce to come, at this point, isn't the point. SBU has made that decision. And whether that decision is right or wrong, they are allowing Soulforce on campus. So looking at it in that light I think they are and have handled the out workings of this process well and will hopefully continue to do so.

How do you hope for SBU's student body to respond to Soulforce?

I hope and urge every person who reads this to spend an extended time reading, meditating, and praying over 2 Timothy 2:14-4:5 and then responding appropriately by applying to their lives the Truths that those few chapters contain. Summarized, these verses say we are not to quarrel, babble irreverently and we are told to not have anything to do with foolish, ignorant controversies for several reasons, all of which can be read in that passage. Instead, Christians are told to present ourselves to God by handling the Bible rightly and unashamed about what the Bible says. We are to treat people with kindness, we are to teach patiently, correcting those who are wrong in hopes some will be saved from hell. We should remember the warning in 3:1-9. We should flee sin in our own lives and depart from iniquity and MOST IMPORTANTLY we are to preach the Word of God to all people at all times regardless of whether we think they have heard the Gospel or not. In other words, we are to do our Christian duty of verbally sharing the Gospel with all people. The Gospel being that men and women can be reconciled to God because of the work of Christ when they repent of their sins and trust in Christ for their salvation. Christ lived a perfect life when we could not, died on the Cross, bearing our sins in his body, and absorbing the wrath of God due to us. He arose three days later defeating sin and death. When we trust in Christ and turn from our sins we will be saved.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stop Confessing and Start Walking

By: Matt Tyler

The title of this post is a bit deceiving. I sort of chose it to gather a little bit of attention. Let me make myself clear: I am not opposed to confessing our sins to one another. In fact, James 5:16 talks about confessing our sins to one another. Yet our culture's practice of confessing sin to one another is, I think, different than the Biblical model of confessing sins. In our culture, confessing sin usually turns into a pity party in which Person A confesses his sin to Person B, C, and D. Person A never makes a genuine commitment to change and usually falls deeper into sin. Failing to remind Person A of the Gospel, Persons B, C, and D never help A fight his sin. Furthermore, confession of sins is usually done with peers of the same age. I find this disturbing on a few different levels. As for myself, it is difficult to confess my sins to my peers. Many of them are more than willing to gossip about a wide range of issues, why should I entrust them with my secret sins? In addition, many of my peers struggle with the same sins that I struggle with. They cannot offer me any help or advice because they are struggling with these sins themselves. I find it much more beneficial and useful to go to my parents, an older person in my Church, or my Pastor. They have experience in mortifying the sins I have in my life because these wise people have already mortified them. Bottom line: I am not big on confessing sins with my peers.

I want to focus specifically though on something I said earlier. Often times I see professed believers enslaved to their own sin. Professed Christians are completely willing to whine (yes I used that word purposely) about their sin and never actually change. I know I have been guilty of this. The problem with this is that Christians do not live a lifestyle of sin. A Christian progressively grows in sanctification that results in greater maturity and conformity to God's moral law (thank you Tabletalk!). Romans 6:14 is very clear: "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Go back and reread that verse. This does not mean that Christians do not sin. This means that Christians do not live lives that are characterized by sin. Christians fall into sin; they do not swim in it. When the Holy Spirit convicts a Christian with a sin, the Christian mortifies that sin (see John MacArthur's book: The Vanishing Conscience).

I find it sad that so many are willing to open up about their sin and yet never change. It shows a hardness of heart that would give Pharaoh a run for his money. It demonstrates a lack of maturity. Worse still, it gives evidence to the fact that post-modern American Christianity is not Biblical Christianity.

The solution to this problem is quite simple. When I mentioned it to a group of my friends one time, not only did they not believe me, they flat out denied it. Apparently they haven't been reading Romans: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus(6:11)." Romans 6:15-20 basically says to become slaves to righteousness which leads to sanctification. Romans 8: 2 says, "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:5 says that those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

The solution is the Gospel. Jesus lived a perfect life fulfilling all righteousness. We could not do that. He then died on a cross in order to pay for the sins of His elect. Three days later he arose demonstrating victory over sin and death. For those who turn from their sins and put their trust in Christ God will save them. This salvation will result in the Holy Spirit's process of sanctification. Christian, do you want to be free from sin? Walk in the Spirit! Walk in Victory! Unbeliever, do you want to be free from sin? Trust in Christ!

In John Bunyan's classic allegory, the Pilgrims Progress, Christian and Hopeful are walking towards the Celestial City. Somewhere along the way, they veer of course because they believe they have found a shorter path (this is sin). Veering off course brought them to Giant Despair who locked them up in Doubting Castle (this is where sin leads). Having been trapped and beaten for days, Christian and Hopeful find themselves wallowing in their sin fearing that there is no escape. Finally Christian makes a discovery:

'Now a little before it was day, Good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech, "What a fool," quoth he," am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will (I am persuaded) open any lock in Doubting Castle." Then said Hopeful, "That's good news; good brother, pluck it out of they bosom and try." Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom and began to try at the dungeon door, whose bolt (as he turned the key) gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out….Then they went on and came to the King's highway again, and so were safe.'

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