Aren’t We Inherently Good?

This is the first part of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on October 4, 2016. To finish reading, click the link at the bottom of the post.

When you look into a sweet baby’s eyes it’s hard to think of that baby as a sinner. When you look at yourself, you know your good intentions and you know the justifications for your own sins. It’s tempting to think the baby is good. It’s tempting to think we are good; that we aren’t “bad” people, committing “those” sins. We think we would likely choose the “good” choice the majority of time.

It might be tempting to think that humankind is usually basically inherently “good.” I know people who believe this.

This belief, or partial belief, of the basic goodness of humanity is called Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism.

The problem is that it contradicts the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word which lays out the total depravity of humanity. We are imperfect, unholy, corrupt sinners from conception. (Psalm 51:5) We don’t even have to do anything or a specific “sin.” In this fallen world, we just are sinners. Sin is as much in our heart attitudes, such as our innate desire to put ourselves first, as it is in actions.

Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament will show over and over how humans – the Israelites, who were God’s chosen people – would try to “straighten up” for short times, usually due to God’s anger against them, but would inevitably drift back into rebellion. Many times they would even go beyond what was before, into worse treachery.

That pattern has played out in modern history, and has probably proved true in our own lives.

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What’s the Deal with Spiritual Gifts?

This is the beginning of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on September 20, 2016. I am sharing the posts I wrote there on my blog. To finish reading the article, you will have to click on the link at the bottom.

Charismatic churches and religions are growing, and evangelical churches are jumping in with spiritual gifts tests and classes, so many people are wondering, “What’s the deal with spiritual gifts?” Spiritual gifts as a whole are much too large to cover in one blog post. However, I decided to write a little about them because of a comment on my last post, Religion Matters, where I told about leaving a church that turned out to be charismatic, because we couldn’t overlook our differences. Specifically, I felt like I was in danger of being led astray by the heavy influence of the spiritual gifts.

It was a long comment, but the reader asked, “I hope this comes across as an honest question and not antagonistic, but why are the gifts of the Spirit seen as so unbiblical and negative?”

I would like to start by pointing out that in no way are the spiritual gifts unbiblical or negative in and of themselves. The Holy Spirit does give gifts to believers. At this point, I have heard some people say that God gives believers their gift(s) at salvation and they come out in the believer’s life in the form of the believer’s passions, talents, and abilities, which would assist them in doing ministry work. Other people seem to think that God gives believers gift(s) at  certain times or situations where someone might benefit from them, in a supernatural way.

From Wikipedia: “Charismatic Christianity (also known as Spirit-filled Christianity) is a form of Christianity that emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and modern-day miracles as an everyday part of a believer’s life. Practitioners are often called Charismatic Christians or renewalists. Although there is considerable overlap, Charismatic Christianity is often categorized into three separate groups: Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Neo-charismatic movement. According to the Pew Research Center, Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians numbered over 584 million or a quarter of the world’s 2 billion Christians in 2011.”

Also, we need to understand two schools of thoughts about the gifts. The charismatic groups would be considered continuationists. From Theopedia, “Continuationism is the belief that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit taught in the bible — such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, miracles, etc. — have not ceased and are available for the believer today (1 Cor. 1:7).” In the other camp are the cessationists, which make up most Reformed and Calvinistic theology. “Cessationism which teaches that supernatural gifts have ceased either when the canon of Scripture was completed or at the death of the last apostle.” (To be clear, the supernatural gifts are prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, and miracles.)

Then there are the people in the middle, who don’t know, haven’t researched, or aren’t even aware of the sides of the issue. I fear that many Christians are here, not knowing what to believe or aren’t being taught to do the proper digging, due to a lack of discipleship.

To be clear, neither side is debating the existence of spiritual gifts that accompanied the Holy Spirit’s coming at Penticost in Acts, and that Paul gives plenty of instruction about in his Epistles. Likewise, in most cases, people on both sides also agree on God’s ability to do mysterious and surprising work as He wills. In other words, the cessationists don’t discount God’s sovereignty in the world, denying that something miraculous that doesn’t normally happen in modern times, could be a supernatural act of God. But it would be seen as the exception, not the norm.

[For further reading: “What is Continuationism?” and “What is Cessationism?” from; and “Why I Am a Cessationist,” from The Gospel Coalition]

Unfortunately, there is debate. However, the proper reading and understanding of Scripture and some background on Church history goes a long way toward understanding it better.

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Religion Matters

This is a post I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on September 8, 2016. I’m posting the first part of the article here and you will have to click on the link at the bottom to finish reading.

Instead of sharing straight from Scripture this time, I am going to share some things about my story. My heart is heavy with many things. I came across an old Tweet that I had re-tweeted from a previous pastor, with a quote that said something like, “God doesn’t care about your religion; it’s your relationships that matter.” I agreed with it at the time, but things have changed in my heart.

While it is true that we as believers are to love our neighbors and to go into the world and make disciples, I now think that religion matters more than what that quote seems to say. I have heard twice this week that the old saying, “don’t be so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good,” should not be heeded, and I agree.

I’ve been a Christian for 35 years, worked in a church for four years, and have attended eight churches in four states over those years. I only bring that up to say that never in that time, until now, have I considered myself Reformed or a Calvinist. In fact, I used to sway the Arminian way. The churches we’ve attended have pretty much all been the “squishy” seeker-sensitive types, welcoming all, making a point to not worry too much about the “little” things in our theology, as long as we agree on the big things. Most of them ranged from being open and accepting to the spiritual gifts to being outright charismatic.

We just relocated to Maine a year ago, and that outright charismatic church is one we began attending here. New England isn’t known for having many churches – especially good Gospel preaching ones. As I was researching more into the spiritual gifts since we were surrounded by all of it at this church, I realized that I was in danger of being led astray in all of it. I talked with my husband and we left that church.

I delved into studying theology, doctrine, church history, and most importantly, God’s Word. God’s grace turned me around, and brought me back into the fold and changed my thinking. Despite the low number of churches to choose from here, I was able to find a handful of churches that might be okay. We tried two and have attended the second one for several weeks. This church is not Reformed, but does seem to hold to most Calvinistic doctrines, as this is the camp where I have firmly landed.

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Why Did God Use a Harlot and a Lie?

I wrote this article on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on August 30, 2016. I’m posting the first part of the article here, and you will have to click the link at the bottom to finish reading.

Is it ever okay to lie? I recently read the account in Joshua about Rahab who hides the spies. Ironically, just a couple days after reading that, I heard an interview on a Christian radio program with an author who wrote a book about lying. As part of their discussion, they brought up Rahab.

The story about Rahab is found in Joshua, chapter 2. Moses has died and Joshua was chosen to be the new leader of the Israelites. He was the one to lead them into the Promised Land. They would have to cross over the Jordan River and take the land God had promised their forefathers. The first city in their path was Jericho. It had very high, thick walls around it, so Joshua sent two men to spy out the land before they would plan to proceed.

“So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.” (v.1) This story is used a lot to point out that God can even use someone like a prostitute for His purposes. I often wondered why the men of Israel decided it was okay to stay with such a woman. I know that when it was getting dark, cities of that time would close their gates to keep people from going in or out at night. In their wandering, the sun must have started setting and the people of Jericho must have begun preparing to close the gates. I suppose needing a place to hide for the night would have led them to stay among the “outcasts” of society.

Even though these outcasts were probably lesser known, word got to the king that Rahab had let two Israelite men into her home. The king sent to Rahab – I assume via a messenger and/or some guards – commanding her to bring the men out. Instead of obeying, she took the men and hid them on her roof with her stalks of flax. Then, she didn’t lie about the men coming to her house, but she said she didn’t know where they were from and that as the gates were closing, they went out. So the king’s men started pursuing down the road and went out of the city gates to see if they could find and overtake them.

When the king’s men were gone, Rahab went to the Israelite men and explained to them that she knew the Lord has given them the land and that the city had heard of the conquests they already had made and the people were afraid of them. In her speech, she says, “for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (v.11) I believe her acknowledgement and understanding of this is key. I don’t know how she got that revelation, but the fact is that she knew and that she respected God.

The story goes on that she asks the Israelite men to spare her life and the lives of her family because she protected them. They give her a scarlet cord to tie in her window as a sign to the Israelite army to not destroy her home or anyone in her home, unless she tells their business to anyone.

The narrative mentions that Rahab lived in the wall of the city. She let the men down by a rope to escape.

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Heart Attitudes and Amazing Grace

I used to do some writing on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog. This was my first post there on August 16, 2016. I’m going to put the pieces I wrote here on my blog. You’ll have to click the link at the bottom to go over to the actual article to finish.

I want to discuss Numbers 11 with you. It stood out to me in my Bible reading. In my Bible, this chapter is titled, “The People Complain.” I will go along and outline what happened, but I encourage you to go to your own Bible and read that chapter for yourself.

This event takes place as Moses is leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But even then after they are freed, with their basic needs being met by God, they begin complaining…again. As if complaining itself isn’t bad enough, they dare to whine and cry that they wish they were back in Egypt…as slaves!

What’s at the root of all this? Their stomachs. Or their taste buds. My Bible says it was intense craving. God was miraculously providing manna for them to eat every day, again in response to their crying because they were hungry. Now it seems that isn’t enough for them. They long for the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that they got to eat in Egypt. The people were weeping and said, “…there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (v.6)

The Lord’s anger rose a couple times, and even poor Moses was getting fed up. As Moses was talking to the Lord, he said, “Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’” (v.13) Moses was burdened by them, so much so, that he even told God that He could kill him here and now!

So the Lord had Moses get 70 elders who would all help carry the burden of the complainers. God told Moses what He was going to do. God said He heard the whining, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it as well with us in Egypt.” (v.18) So here’s what was going to happen, “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’” (vs.18-20) I picture God being like, “You want meat, do you? Well, okay, then. I’ll give you MEAT!”

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