Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

One reason being a Christian makes me happy

16 Mar

Existential Qs

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Who am I?  
  • Is there any point to any of this?

Paul commended the Athenian thinkers of his day for looking into the important questions of life, the deep issues.  He observed that they were indeed following the hunger that God placed in all men, to know Him.  But they had arrived at some dead ends.  Paul started where their human reason had landed them and hooked their curiosity with this pronouncement:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God,and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for  ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.…  Acts 17:24-28a

Was their curiosity satisfied?  Yes and no. A few Athenians were able to SEE the truth, but most weren’t.  Why was that?  Were they not all smart, thinking, logical Joes and Janes?

I am the light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in the shadows but that one will have the Light of the world.  John 8:12

I first heard someone explain who Jesus was and what He had done when I was 23.  That is when I ‘saw the light’ so to speak. At that point most of my existential questions began to be answered.  What caused me to see clearly and arrive at a true paradigm that explains those 3 questions at the beginning of this blog?  Nothing but the supernatural working of God ON me.  It happens like this for all those who treasure Jesus Christ:

  • No one can follow Jesus unless he can SEE Jesus (though invisible).
  • We can’t SEE who Jesus is until God flips on the immaterial light switch in our ‘heart’, that source of reason and imagination and will.
  • Once we ‘see’ this supernatural light, then we can ALSO ‘see’ by means of Jesus EVERYTHING else that’s ultimately or eternally important.

That Holy Spirit lightbulb moment happened for me when I was 23. As I have grown and learned to know who Jesus is in all his limitless dimensions, I have grown existentially happier and happier.  I now rest KNOWING the following:

  • The meaning of life – to know and let others know about the Triune God
  • Who I am – a RICHLY gifted and GREATLY loved, though underserving, child of God
  • What the point of life and this world is – for God to create a diverse family of human beings from across the ages who will enjoy Him by being satisfied by Him forever

Do I have the answers to all my questions?  Good heavens, NO!   But the major existential issues of life that every human grapples with and which each system of thought attempts to answer ARE settled.

And……I am free to SEE and to SAVOR the True, the Good and the Beautiful in this life that God has created.  As a dependent follower of Christ I have been given a mission to spread this good news of God’s love and purpose with others.

For all those reasons my heart IS happy, no matter how trying the day is or what suffering it brings.

God gave you a brain, so use it!

12 Aug

Confession:  I find it challenging to exercise patience with Christians who don’t know why they believe something.  Unable to articulate reasons, they feel put on the spot.  Their reaction is predictable – they tend to retreat behind a weak excuse: “I just have faith!”

One doesn’t have to study deeply in the Bible to notice that not only Jesus himself but many of the inspired writers used logical argumentation and evidence to support their claims.

Paul, the New Testament apostle who encountered and was transformed by the resurrected Jesus, was skilled in good debate.  A clear argument to showcase why God expects us to be rational comes from Paul’s instruction to the Christians of Corinth. They were plagued with some incertitude and fears, which came from the ambient Greek philosophy of the times that devalued the body.  These sincere but baby Christians were beginning themselves to doubt the possibility of resurrection. Paul took on their argument with full-square directness and articulated the consequences of their fear:

1 Corinthians 15:16  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

It’s easy to take Paul’s argument and render it into logical form.  If we just address his first thought, we arrive at this syllogism:

Premise 1: No human beings are raised from the dead

Premise 2: Christ was a human being

Conclusion:  Therefore, Christ was not raised from the dead

In his letter to them, Paul has set up the Corinthians intentionally so that they can NOT argue in this manner.  The first fifteen verses of Chapter 15 of his letter have already laid out the case for the historicity of the resurrection.  In fact, Paul’s strongest card is the fact that more than 500 people saw the newly risen Jesus during the 40 days between the resurrection and His ascension. So even though the syllogism above is in a valid form, as we see here below,

No M is P

All S is M

Therefore, No S is P

..the argument STILL fails the ‘soundness’ test.  Remember that all we have to do is show that one premise is false and the argument comes apart.  Since Jesus was fully human AND fully God, we have to accept Premise 2 as true.  We then turn to Premise 1, which states that No human beings are raised from the dead. Not so!

resurrected Jesus

The Bible recounts at least 5 or 6 people raised from the dead.  See link here for explanation of each

Therefore, by virtue of discrediting the truth of Premise # 2, the entire argument falls apart. And an argument, however valid it might be, is not sound if it is not true.  But a valid, true argument is airtight, hence unbeatable.

Do you see how logic is useful?  Being a thinking, rational Christian is NOT a contradiction in terms.  God is Himself a reason-based rational being.  Yes, He is far more multi-dimensional than us, to include being supernatural and immaterial. But we are made in His image.  Should we not expect Him to endow us with some measure of logical thinking?

Logical Gal – Multiple definitions can be confusing!

24 Sep

A recent devotional I read mentioned the Apostle Paul’s use of the term Israel to refer to FOUR different concepts.

I thought a brief account of how ‘Israel’ is employed would serve as a useful reminder to clarify terms before jumping into a discussion/debate or argument with someone.

The first question ALWAYS to ask is: What do you mean by X?

Hebrew people

‘Tabletalk’ is a monthly magazine with articles and daily Bible teaching by Dr. R.C. Sproul. I’m a month behind, but the 18 August 2014 piece was based on some verses in Romans 11.  Dr. Sproul mentions that in Romans 9-11, Paul uses ‘Israel’ to describe 4 different groups of people (his exact words follow):

  • The group of ethnic Jews who have true faith in the Lord
  • The entire corporate nation that is made up of all ethic Jews, including those who do not trust in the Lord
  • Ethnic Jews who have not placed their faith in Jesus
  • And finally, the term Israel can also designate all of those who believe in Jesus, including both ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles

Just reading about these distinctions reinforced in MY mind how ‘nuanced’ the Bible is.  I’m beginning to realize that words in Scripture are often a shorthand description that needs to be amplified.  For example, I’ve often been puzzled by the first 4 words in Paul’s statement: To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

I now realize that we in contemporary America speak in an equally symbolic but well understood way when we announce boldly general statements such as:  “Gardening is my life” or some such thing.  So to say ‘to live is Christ’ would probably mean that Christ is the most important person and truth in my life and I base everything on Him.

If we invest the energy and time actually to think and ponder, we CAN deal with layered concepts that might at first seem to stretch us.

I’ll leave you with a puzzle to practice with, one that maybe you can unravel.  Just as there are equivocal definitions of the term Israel, there are several possibilities for the adjective ALL or EVERY……  I often hear people announce hyperbolically:

  • All of New York turned out for the parade
  • All the OTHER kids get to go to the party!
  • Everyone knows that…..

Here’s my challenge:  What does Paul mean when he boldly writes to the Christians in Rome – All Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26)

All Israel will be saved

Before we get into a theological back and forth, we had better work to clarify the following:

  1. which category of Israel is meant?
  2. what does ‘all’ really mean?
  3. and in what sense will that group be ‘saved’?

Only then can a discussion proceed!

Would that as a matter of course I could be so restrained in my conversations.