Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Problem of Sin


“The problem of sin” in our world does not come as a shock to any of us. We certainly can agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world. According to Christianity the biggest problem that the world faces is sin. The concept of sin is offensive to some. What does Christianity mean when it speaks of sin? We often think of sin only in terms of forbidden actions and activities, but the problem of sin goes much deeper. The problem of sin is as much an internal problem as it is an external one.

I. THE MEANING OF SIN

There is hope

We are not a victim and that gives us hope! The medical model tells us that we are at the mercy of our maladies, the legal model tells us that the primary essence of sin is the violation of God’s law. God tells us that the essence of sin is a “wrecked relationship with God, one another and the whole created order.” Pride is the enemy of hope! When we offer excuses by pointing a finger of blame for our problem somewhere else we shut the door for finding a solution to the problem. Until we can admit that we are flawed human beings, i.e. sinners, we will be caught in a hopeless cycle of bondage to sin.

How do we define sin?

“The primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose and happiness than your relationship to God.” “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God.” Every person is seeking for identity – the sense of being distinct and valuable. God calls us to love Him supremely and to build or identity upon Him. Anything other than this is sin! The first commandment in Exodus 20 says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (v.3). Whatever it is that we look to in hopes of finding significance in life becomes deity to us.

Examples of How People Seek To Justify Their Existence

Sports. In the movie Rocky, the girlfriend asks Rocky why its so important to him to “go the distance” in the boxing match. He replied, “Then they will know I’m not a bum.” Some people look to athletic achievement as the defining force that gives meaning to their life. Work. Some look to their work as a means of brining significance to their life, of justifying their existence. When this happens the person “lives the fantasy of the control of life and death, of destiny.” Love. “The self-glorification that man needed in his inner-most nature he now looked for in a love partner. The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life. Spiritual and moral needs now become focus on one individual.” “No human relationship can bear this burden of godhood… if your partner is your “ALL” then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you…” Addictions. Whatever person or thing we use to give us identity, significance becomes an addition. We are in bondage to that thing. The boat, the bottle or the babes! But all of this only sets the stage for continual disappointment. There are many ways people get their identity, but everyone is building their identity on something!

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN (Genesis 3:1-19)

Personal Consequences of Sin

A life not centered upon God leads to fear. Whatever threatens your identity causes you fear. If you lose your identity through your own failure, you hate yourself. If you lose it through the actions of others you hate them. Only if our identity is built upon God can we face anything that may come. A life not centered upon God leads to forms of addiction. If we take meaning for life from our family, our work, our cause or some other achievement other than God, these things enslave us. A misplaced love creates uncontrollable anguish if anything goes wrong with the object of our greatest hopes. A life not centered on God leads to emptiness. Even when we achieve our goals and dreams we will find that they do not bring us fulfillment. Look at how many successful celebrities, sports stars and successful business people thought they would find happiness and peace with success but found it empty. (Ill: Biography of Steve Jobs) There was a man like this who wrote of his journey. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11) A life not centered upon God ultimately leads to physical & spiritual death.

Social Consequences of Sin

Sin has a devastating effect on the social fabric of society. British writer Dorothy Sayers after WWII wrote: “People who are most discouraged, are those who cling to an optimistic belief in the civilizing influence of progress and enlightenment.” Human society is fragmented when anything other than God is our highest love.

  • If our highest goal is our family then we will tend to care less for other families
  • If our highest goal is the good of our nation, tribe or race, then we will be racist or nationalistic
  • If our highest goal is our own happiness then we will put our own economic and power interests ahead of those of others.

Only when God is at the center of our life and our ultimate good will we find our heart drawn out not only to people of all families, races and classes but to the whole world in general.

Cosmic Consequences of Sin

A perfect creation intended for perfect fellowship between man and God. A place of perfect peace of heart and mind. When I visited Israel, often I would be greeted by the word: “Shalom!”  The Hebrew idea of Shalom is a harmonious relationship between all parts of creation. (Gen. 1-2) However this peace (Shalom) and unity with God and one another was lost in (Gen. 3). The choice by Adam & Eve to rebel against God and seek their own way resulted in loss of innocence. The human race was plunged into bondage and decay. (Romans 1:16-2:1) As soon as our parents determined to live for themselves instead of God the entire created world became broken. (Romans 8:20-22)

III. THE SOLUTION TO SIN

How can we put things right?

The solution to sin is NOT reformation

God does not ask us to do a better job or to give him a bit more attention, time or effort. God demands our ALL. He demands that we hand over all of our desires, dreams, goals… all of our natural self. In turn He will give us a new life.

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

The solution to sin is not simply to change your behavior, but to reorient and center the entire heart and life on God. “If I am a grass field – all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat… I must be plowed up and re-sown.” CS Lewis If I don’t live for Jesus I will live for something else.

The solution is repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ died for your sins so that through His death the justice of God against sin could be fulfilled and He could reconcile you to His Father thus bringing back Shalom (peace).

Ephesians 2: 12-18 “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

If Jesus is your Creator-Lord, then by definition nothing could satisfy you like he can, even if you are successful. Repentance is the turning away from sin and rushing into the arms of God. Saving faith is God’s work whereby the truth of the gospel moves from your head to your heart. You surrender to Him your ALL!

Acts 2:21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

A Roman official in Acts 16:31 fell before Paul and cried out: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your whole house!”

CONCLUSION:

Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that “something” is becomes the Lord of your life. Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and if you fail Him, will forgive you eternally. ———————————– This week’s Bible study came from the book The Reason For God by Timothy Keller, you will find this study in chapter 10. Here is a .pdf copy of the Bible study for you to download and study further. The Problem of Sin

How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?


This is a difficult question for a number of reasons:

A. Personal Perspectives—no one likes to think about punishment, especially final personal punishment.

B. Personal Experiences—many people struggle because of negative encounters in which the fear of Hell was used in an effort to scare people into making a religious commitment.

Some common objections to the idea of Hell:

A. How can a loving God send people to Hell?

B. How could God overlook all the good that people do during their lifetime?

C. How can God punish people for eternity when they have only sinned for a lifetime?

We must remember a few big ideas from the Scripture in order to answer the question:

A. God is our Creator.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 English Standard Version)

1. God’s original creation was perfect—no sin, no suffering, no death.
2. Mankind enjoyed perfect relationships with each other and with their Creator.
3. God created us so that we could delight in knowing and serving him; he has a rightful claim to our obedience

B. God is righteous.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” (Psalm 97:2b)

1. He is morally perfect in absolutely everything he does.
2. God’s character is the very standard of what is right and just.

C. Mankind rebelled against God and fell into unrighteous.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

1. Adam, our first father, rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.
2. As humanity’s representative, he led us all in rebellion against our Creator.
3. As a result we who are “in Adam” constantly fall far short of God’s righteousness in every way.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What does the Bible teach about Hell?

A. God has created a place of punishment for Satan and his angels.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

B. God tells mankind that he will punish the unrepentant who persist in their sin.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12, 15)

This is not a pleasant subject in Scripture. John Calvin, a well-known Christian leader who lived centuries years ago said, “The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” And yet it is the plain reality that the Bible teaches.

How does the Bible address my objections to its teaching about Hell?

A. How can a loving God send people to Hell?
The Bible emphasizes that God is perfect in his love and his justice. Would you consider a judge to be just who overlooked crime and refused to punish?

B. How can God overlook all the good people do during their lifetime?
The Bible is clear that the good things I have done do not please God nor change the fact that I have rebelled against him
C. How can God punish people for eternity when they have only sinned for a lifetime?
Consider the seriousness of rebellion against your Creator. Sins against other people have certain consequences, but sinning against God is an infinitely greater matter.

Is our situation hopeless?

If we look to ourselves, the situation is hopeless because we can never do enough good to outweigh our sin against God. We desperately need someone to save us from the judgment that we deserve. This is where the Bible announces the best news that mankind could ever hear.

A. God has shown the depths of his love to the world by making a way for people to be saved.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

B. God the Son became a man and lived the perfect sinless life that we never could.

“He [Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:22–23)

C. Jesus suffered a violent death in which he endured God’s righteous anger against sin.

“Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet 3:18a)

D. By absorbing God’s judgment on sin, Jesus has become the substitute for all who repent and trust only in him.

“he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

[You have learned] “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

E. God raised him from the dead to show Jesus’ victory over sin’s ultimate consequence. Because Jesus conquered death, it is no longer the door of judgment for those who are “in Christ.”

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

How does the Bible encourage me to respond?

1. The Bible urges you to despair of any efforts to reconcile with God on your own and to put your confidence fully in Jesus, God’s Son.

2. The Bible commands you to confess your sins to God, to repent of them and seek his forgiveness through Christ.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)

3. The Bible invites you to the ocean of God’s grace which is found in Jesus.

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37–38)

“The Spirit and the Bride [the Church] say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17)

Why are there so many religions?


Here are the Bible study notes from this morning. We will upload the .pdf version for download so check back in a day or so.

Aren’t all religions equally valid—just as long as they are sincere?

How do we explain the presence of so many religions in the world?

Aren’t the world’s religions all trying to achieve the same thing?
-Social peace
-Spiritual well-being
-A shift in focus from the mundane to the transcendent
-Curbing vices and promoting moral behavior

Aren’t they all simply different expressions of the same ultimate truth?

Two challenges which religion in our day presents to us:

1. Exclusivism—the religious systems of the world cannot all be right in what they teach.

The world’s religious systems have differing conceptions of what is true:
-Judaism
-Christianity
-Islam

The world’s religious systems have differing explanations of life’s purpose:

For example, Sikhism seeks life purpose in escaping reincarnation and becoming one with God.
Zen Buddhism is all about escaping dualism to achieve enlightenment.

2. Conflict—the presence of differing religious convictions has the potential to generate social conflict.

Religious conflict is often motivated by arrogance.

When a religious group is convinced their teachings are the only source of all truth, they can easily develop an attitude of superiority toward those of other faiths.

Attitudes of religious arrogance can also stem from feelings of superior moral standards.

In some cases, religious conflict boils over into outright acts of oppression such as persecution, war, and even genocide.

The Sudanese Civil Wars—social conflicts occur between world religions (Christianity and Islam).

Europe’s Thirty Years War (1618–1648)—conflicts occurring within the same general religious tradition (Protestants and Catholics).

Can we escape the divisiveness which religious views bring?

In his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller observes three proposed solutions to the problems of religion and evaluates the problems with each approach (Chapter One).

Would simply outlawing religion solve the problem?
Attempts in the past have only generated their own kind of oppression (e.g., Soviet Russia, Communist China, North Korea)

The problem with this approach:
Religious commitments have not diminished with advances in science and education as secularism thought. Instead, Christianity in particular has experienced exponential growth within the last century in across Africa, as well as in India, China, and Korea.

What happens if we attempt to discourage or suppress religion?
Attempting to discourage religion will be an unsuccessful undertaking.

This solution is based upon a number of problematic assumptions:
– “All religions are equal”—would you say the same of religions which practice human sacrifices?
– “Religion is simply cultural”—does an individualistic cultural vantage point lie behind this idea?
– “It is arrogant for any religion to view its beliefs as superior to others”—again does this assumption arise from its own cultural perspective, a pluralistic and egalitarian one? Isn’t this also an exclusivist claim religious claim?

What happens if we try to privatize religion by removing it from the public square?

Some have suggested that we should remove religious convictions from the public square by only working on the basis of universally accepted and religiously neutral arguments.

This approach fails to account for the fact that everyone has unprovable faith assumptions which govern their view of the world, truth, morality, and ethics.

Conclusion: diverse religious convictions in society and around the world are unavoidable.

What attitudes are reflected in the Bible in regards to these challenges: religious arrogance and exclusivism?

Arrogance—does the Bible favor religious arrogance or oppression? No.

The Bible strongly condemns all forms of arrogance and oppression, including that which is religiously motivated.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 ESV).

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:16–18).

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

The Bible discourages oppressive and divisive behavior among Christians, particularly its leaders. Listen to the words of Jesus:

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42–44).

Jesus taught and exemplified a life of humility—the very opposite of arrogance.

Isaiah the prophet predicted the humble attitude that would mark Jesus’ life and ministry:

“He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Isaiah 42:2–3).

Jesus said of himself, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5–8 NIV).

Exclusivism—does the Bible hold an exclusivist attitude, that its teachings represent the truth and those who disagree with it are wrong? Yes it does.

Truth has a natural quality of exclusivity: if one thing is true, its opposite must be false. True humility does not shrink from telling the truth in order to avoid offending others. The Scriptures proclaim that there is only one true God, and we find in Jesus the perfect blend of humility and truthfulness who tells us that he is the only way to God.

“There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21–22).

“Jesus said to him [Thomas the disciple], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Some thoughts on the exclusive claims of Jesus from the Bible:
If you have not yet become a follower of Jesus, consider the cost of being his disciple. Though disciples follow his example of humility and peacemaking, they will experience the division which truth brings, even in their closest relationships (Luke 12:53; see also Luke 14:25–33).

If you are still searching for peace with God, consider how Jesus is able to make good on his claims to being the only way

Bible Study Schedule


Here is the schedule for Bible study topics for the next two months.  This Bible study fellowship is open to all, reaching out to those who are not churched, and/or those who have questions about faith.  
 
Our desire is to help adults and children understand God’s Word and take the next step with God.  
 
March:
2nd – How Can A Good God Allow Suffering?
9th – How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?
16th – Why are there so many religions?
23rd – Can God be known?
30th – The problem of Sin
 
April:
6th – Religion & the Gospel
13th – The (true) story of the cross (Palm Sunday)
20th – The reality of the resurrection (Easter)
27th – The Christian life now and in the future. 
 
 If you wish for further information please contact the Bible study facilitator at philhunt66 at gmail.com.

Blaming Adam – Feedback From Sunday’s Bible Study


I was attending the Bible study on the topic of God’s goodness and human suffering. The speaker directed our attention to the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis. During the discussion I couldn’t help but think:

Really Adam, what were you thinking? God gave you everything: a perfect world, a perfect woman, the power to rule over everything created, and a perfect relationship with God himself. God gave you everything except one tree. You operated in a world with only one small restriction; yet you couldn’t help yourself. Seriously?

The speaker illustrated Adam and Eve’s situation with the following question: could you imagine living in a perfect world with only one rule? What if you could enjoy a perfect world with only one rule, you can’t drive over 60 km/h? Wouldn’t that be great? While I was imagining such a world, my attention was immediately drawn to the one restriction; in my heart I wanted to drive over 60 km/h. It was then that I realized I would have taken the fruit in the garden. Who am I to condemn Adam? – S.S.

How Can God Allow Suffering?


Here are the notes from today’s Bible study!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  You can get in touch with me on email at philhunt66@gmail.com.  In Kitwe you can text or call me on 0976153466.  I would love to hear from you.

Download a PDF copy of the Bible Study here:  How Can God Allow Suffering?

HOW CAN A GOOD GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?

Many find the presence of evil and suffering in the world a great problem to having faith in God.  The problem of pain and suffering is a problem that cannot be ignored and the question of how God can allow it has been asked throughout the ages.

The argument can be summarized this way:

  • Evil & suffering exist in the world.
  • If God were all-powerful, he could prevent evil and suffering.
  • If He were all-loving he would want to prevent these.
  • If there were an all-powerful God, there would be no evil and suffering in the world.
  • God is therefore powerless, loveless or nonexistent.

There are many causes of suffering and evil in the world:

  • Natural Disasters – Tsunami, 26 December 2004.  Over 280,000 people died in Sumatra, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives Continue reading