Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Christianity: Simple but not simplistic
Simple but not simplistic is a mantra I developed many years ago to describe what Christianity is (or ought to be).
[It is similar to the illustration Jerome painted of the Bible, “shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologian to swim in without ever touching bottom.” Christianity isn’t a kiddy pool, nor is it an raging ocean; it is like a real graduating pool, the same water, but different depths, with room for maturity but ever with mysterious humility.]
On the one hand it is simple vs. complex. One shouldn’t add to the Faith. This can happen in legalistic or nominal or ritualistic or highly intellectual settings, etc.
On the other hand, it is simple vs. simplistic. One shouldn’t take away from the Faith or make it less than it is. This can happen in popular or folk Christianity, nominalism, emotionalism, etc.
Like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Christianity should not be too hot or too cold but just right, as God intended.
Part of this mantra is informed by my own journey. Growing up in an evangelite denomination, exposed to theological liberalism, etc, gave me a desire for a more “robust” Faith; or one that richly accorded with Scripture.
The rest of the mantra comes from an acknowledgement that Scripture says as much (2 Pet 2:2; Heb 6:1–3), we should live (and hunger) for “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).
Consider how the Gospel is simple but not simplistic (Acts 2:38):
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Gospel isn’t do all of this to be saved, or understand the depths of Christology to be saved. Nor is the Gospel just believe or any such pithy saying. It is a simple robust call to belief in who Jesus is, repentant of one’s sin, trust in Jesus for forgiveness, baptism and the promised Holy Spirit.
Consider how Discipleship is simple but not simplistic:
While some portions of God’s Word is difficult to understand (2 Pet 3:16) we trust that with the Spirit’s help, all Scripture is for our good (Dt 6:24), even the hard passages. This clarity of Scripture (2 Ti 3:16–17) encourages us to study God’s Word and not settle for over simplifications nor feel trapped as if it is all impossible to understand.
Consider how the study of Doctrine is simple but not simplistic
From the Gospel all Christian theology can be built, one brick at a time.
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will. This is good. God calls doctrine, if it is biblical vs. manmade, good, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” (1 Ti 4:6; c.f. Tit 1:9, 2:1). He wants us to know more about Him and His ways and this does require training (effort). We might not all become elite athletes but we should all be healthy and fit.
Christianity is not trivial nor is it impossible, it is like an exciting adventure that is possible with the Spirit’s help. It turns out Christianity is simple but not simplistic after all.
The other day, with the return of the snow, my son exclaimed to my wife, “God sent the deep, deep snow back!” She replied, “Yes, he did!” My son, who is always saying, “see it, see it,” if he has missed something (a horse and buggy on the road or a bird at the bird feeder), said to her, “You [meaning him] see Him [meaning God]?” Oh the profound things that come from the mouths of babes!
Many people don’t believe Christianity is true or come to doubt their faith by asking a similar type of question, “Why should I believe in God if I cannot see Him?”
This is a classic example of a statement or question pre-determining our response. Can or could we ever see God, was it His design? What might impinge this sight even if we could?
In multiple places the Bible affirms that God is spirit (Jn 4:24, “God is spirit”) and invisible (Col 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”). Even before sin entered the world and humanity fell from a favoured state with God (Gen 3), the sense from the opening chapters of Genesis is that God was spiritually present in the Garden (Gen 3:8).
Since the Fall, sin has separated us from God. The only way in which we can “see Him” is to be restored to fellowship with Him through the Gospel (faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, Mt 5:8-“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”). Then we shall see God spiritually and one day see Him physically. And it is precisely this Jesus who offers salvation who is the means by which we can physically see God.
Through Jesus, as God’s Son, we can see God the Father.
The Christmas story celebrates God the Son taking on human flesh, incarnating as Jesus, “to save His people from their sin.” Through Jesus, as God, we can see God. This is what Jesus said to His disciple Phillip in John 14:9, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Because God the Father and God the Son share one Divine essence, to see Jesus is to see the Father. (A very poor example is my likeness to my grandfather and father. Many people who have never met me but knew them have come up to me and said, “you must be Jack or Don’s grandson or son.” We share a genetic likeness). Now evidently, we cannot see Jesus today—He’s returned to heaven—however through Jesus’ witnesses, the Apostles, and through the record of God’s Word, we can “see” Jesus and believe (Jn 20:29, 30–31).
Jesus also told the story of a man who had a house, entrusted it to servants, and then went away on a long journey promising to come back (Mk 13:34). Jesus came and He is also returning to bring judgement upon the unbelievers and reward and blessing to his followers. Then we shall see God in Jesus. Then believers will see Him (“the lamb”) for eternity as He is with us in a new Creation (Rev 21:22).
In the meantime, we can know God through faith and repentance in Jesus and see God spiritually.
Too good for the Gospel?
One of the largest stumbling blocks to the Christian faith, or rather seeing ones need of Christ, is the belief that one is too good for the Gospel. Why would I need Christianity when I live a decent life already? Maybe Christianity is okay for really bad people but it has nothing to offer me. I’m a firefighter, not an arsonist. I’m a nurse, not a chemical weapons specialist. I’m a farmer, not a cattle rustler. With the exception of maybe a few rough edges I’m basically a good person, too good to need Christ, too good for the Gospel to be good news to me.
How do we answer those who raise this point when we seek to share the Gospel with them? How can we help them see their need of Christ (I say help because conviction of sin is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit, Jn 16:8).
We might start by freely acknowledging our own sinfulness before them, that the Gospel is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. But still, they might protest that neither of us are beggars, we’re both basically good people, and I have enough bread thank you.
Okay, Mr. Good, let’s turn to Ro 3:23, a very famous and helpful verse on this subject:
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But I’m not a sinner they may still exclaim. I’m not an Adolph Hitler or a Genghis Khan, nor a mafia boss nor an online fraudster. HERE is the problem. Here is the key to unlocking this stumbling block and excuse. Their standard for measuring goodness is either themselves or someone else. When we, rather subjectively, set the bar it is no wonder we measure up, we set it far too low!
But that is the complete opposite of what Ro 3:23 is saying. Why have we all, without exception, sinned? Because we fall short of the glory of God. God’s glory is His character, His reality, His person. He is holy, radiant, pure and good and He calls us to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). He is and sets the standard and not us or others. He makes this standard known through His Divine Laws, all that He has said in His Word as to that which is right and wrong. Take the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:1–17) or even the Great Commandment (Mk 12:28–31) as but an example. Find me someone who has kept those simple lists perfectly and I’ll make pigs fly!
WOW! That changes the weights and measurements doesn’t it? That revolutionizes our perspective on goodness. No longer is my goodness adequate, no longer do I measure up, now there is a great gulf between what goodness I may have and the goodness that God requires of me—perfection. Truly, now all of my “righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Even any good we may have do is unacceptable because it wasn’t done in faith to love, honour and glorify God (Heb 11:6).
Once Mr. Good has grasped this by the Spirit, Mr. Bad is ready for Good News, the Gospel, for he sees his need of it. Ro 3 continues in vv. 24–25:
And are justified [declared right] by His grace [unmerited favour] as a gift [we cannot earn it for our deeds are imperfect], through the redemption [rescue] that is in Christ Jesus [what? Read on…], whom God put forward as a propitiation [a sacrifice that turns God’s wrath toward sin into favour] by his blood [dying on the cross], to be received by faith. [that believing this and asking, in trust, for God to forgive your sins according to the merits of Christ’s blood. That is how we can be saved from our sins and gain eternal life; that is how a relationship with our Maker can be restored].
God willing, your stumbling block removed, would you see your need for Christ and call on Him, asking Him to be Saviour and Lord of your life?
Genocide in the Old Testament?
[This is a much longer entry than normal given the subject nature]
The last century witnesses three famous genocides:
A genocide is a horrendous thing and is when one group seeks to exterminate another (litterally genos [people], cide [killing]), and this is often done because of hate, greed, land disputes, etc.
Then we turn to the Old Testament and find passages like this concerning Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land as part of God’s plan for Israel and the redemption of a lost world:
“16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16–18)
*Note v.18 is a clue to understanding this, to which we’ll return
Yikes! That sure looks like genocide to me; cased closed, I cannot believe in a God like that. But hold on, let’s take a closer look.
Now some seek to get around the idea all together, either in a bid to disbelieve in God or to seek to find a God of their liking.
Some denied these events ever happened as recorded in Joshua. But then archaeology came to the defence of the Bible to demonstrate that it did and they had to change their tune. This is what happened with the destruction of a city called Hazor (see Joshua 11:10–11), which the critics were quick to point out how archaeology did not support this verse; that is until fresh archaeological digs in 2013 revealed a complete layer of ash signifying total destruction.
These events happened, so we can’t brush them off as if they didn’t.
These events tell us something about God’s word. It is true because He is truth. Whatever it positively commends, in fact or faith, can be trusted, for, “Every word of God proves true.” (Prov 30:5).
Then there are those professing Christians who pretend that if they ignore it the difficult questions will go away. Like a host of issues some find uncomfortable in the Bible (divorce, gender and sexuality, criminal justice matters, etc); if we just wish them away hard enough they’ll vanish before our very eyes! The problem is that they don’t and people seeking truth will see the shallowness in the attempt and hunger for answers. (Not to mention such an approach, that cuts out portions of Scripture we disagree with, take away what God has inspired and put in for our benefit. It tampers with the Word of God. [2 Ti 3:16; Acts 20:27]).
Others try another route to get out of dealing with these difficult passages, let’s go with they don’t actually mean what they say! Let’s consider the non-violent meanings of the passages like these. Problem, it means what it says. That when it says “devote to destruction” that is what is meant, reinforced by archaeology. Those who are troubled by passages about sin or judgement usually lack a sufficiently robust biblical worldview to understand them and answer the question of why.
So let’s finally ask—head on--What exactly happened? Why did it happen? What does it teach us? In so doing we’ll see it’s not something to be decried as an unethical problem, but actually points us to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
What exactly happened?
In order to receive the Promised Land, the Israelites were to invade and destroy the Canaanites cities, all of the different ‘ites’ who were there. Returning to Dt 20:16–17, we notice a number of important things:
Why did it happen?
The justness and rationale behind these ‘problematic’ verses, begins to evaporate more quickly when you answers this. There are two stated reasons:
Thus, the rationale is a blend of judgement and protection.
And we should also note that in cities outside the Promised Land, the Israelites were to offer terms of peace, Deuteronomy 20:10. And even amongst the Canaanites whom they were called to destroy, there was still the possibility of escape. The condition was this: fear the Lord! This was the case with Rahab (Jos 2:8–13, 6:22–5), she was spared; and the Gibeonites (9:26–7), they were spared; why, because their evil hearts melted and they feared the LORD, turning to Him.
What does this all teach us?
All of this challenges the misguided notion that the god of the OT is different from the god of the NT. That in the OT He is an angry and violent God and in the NT He is loving and gentle god. But such a view fails to see the love and grace and provision of God in the OT and His wrath and justice in the NT! The Bible speaks of 1 God, who never changes. (See this blog). ‘Gentle Jesus meek and mild’ spoke more on the subject of hell and judgement than anyone else in the Bible (A fact many overlook); that anyone who rejects salvation through faith in Him is assured of an eternal and conscious punishment away from the presence of God.
Lk 13:5b- I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
But I’m not that bad, I’m not like those nasty Canaanites, I’m a good atheist! Well, Atheism is just like the idolatry of the Canaanites, it pushes God out, which is the greatest of all sins.
John 1:12- But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
But ‘I’m not immoral’ (‘I might not be moral, but I’m certainly not immoral’) like those nasty Canaanites. But sinners aren’t like kittens either, because we don’t know God, are hearts are far from Him and from them flow all kinds of evil (Mk 7:21). All our good deeds are like filthy rags b/c even if we do them, they’re not done in faith.
The cherem of the Canaanites—total destruction— is a picture of HELL, the eternal destruction that awaits all who do not come to fear the Lord & call upon Him for salvation. This is how these difficult passages have been viewed by Christians through the ages.
Whilst some will continue to decry what the Bible says because it says the unbeliever will not have forgiveness or eternal life, it is in light of this shocking reality and sobering news—that Light SHINES FORTH—this good news!!! “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21). No matter what you’ve done or who you are! Acts 2:21!!! Why, because justice was accomplished on the Cross for the believer so you could go free. Jesus endured HELL so you might gain HEAVEN!
He died the death we deserved to die so that by believing we might have life in His name!
Friends, don’t decry the Bible or its sobering message, don’t put up road blocks to faith that have no reasonable grounding; but accept in faith that these ‘destruction’ passages are given by God for your instruction and benefit, so that you might not perish but find everlasting life.
Good to Go?
Are humans naturally good?
Many people think so, but does the evidence really point in that direction?
How can we account for the bad things we see and experience around us in daily life, in social media, around the world, if we’re by nature good? Wouldn’t goodness prevail over ill? Wouldn’t it be the norm vs. the exception?
Below are 8 non-Biblical arguments to suggest we’re not good to go:
The Bible, as God’s Word to us, confirms that this theory of human nature is indeed more than a theory, it is a reality. If we peruse its pages, from cover to cover, we see that it speaks with one accord, like a great trumpet, that humans are, by nature, sinful:
*Caution: What follows is not for the faint of heart; these passages speak of apostasy, falleness, corruption, depravity and proneness to evil. The fact we don’t want to acknowledge these is in part evidence of their truthfulness.
Putting two quoted part verses into their whole verse context reveals good news for those who repent and trust in Jesus:
Related Read: Too good for the Gospel?
 W. Wilberforce, Real Christianity, p. 28.
 Ibid., 34.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1.5, p. 32.
God for Today (and Tomorrow)
When many people think of God they wonder about His relevance, or desire more than a get out of hell free card (in that case, I’ll just wait until closer to death before pursuing Him, which itself is dangerous, Isa 55:6]).
I’m reminded of Jesus’ comment in Mk 12:27, that “He [God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In context of the Resurrection this means He’s the God of those who are spiritually alive, both those in Heaven but followers of Jesus today. More broadly spun you could say God is a God of the afterlife but for life today.
Christianity is a religion for today and not simply the afterlife. Here are some examples why:
1. Peace with God
The heart of the Bible’s message is that humanity has fallen from its original state of friendship with God and now in sinful rebellion is under just condemnation. We are God’s enemy. Having an enemy such as this along with the eternal guilt that accompanies it bears heavily upon one’s body, soul and spirit. Suppressing the truth of our condemnation, we seek to evade the thought of this rebellion with still more rebellion. We try to substitute being made for God with other things (e.g. money, sex, power, etc). While some of these things may satisfy for a time they do not do so completely. As such we’re left with anxiety and depression. The only solution that can bring us peace is to become at peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus. The moment we believe, we enjoy this peace; peace from the penalty of sin, friendship with God. Ro 5:1 says, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Life to the Full
Many people think they are living a full life; however, our fullness can only extend as far as our sin inhibits—not far at all. We’re not living life fully because we’re not living as we were design to live. We’re not living for God and His glory; we’re living for self and today. As a result of not being at peace with God we’re actually spiritually dead. We may think we’re alive but it isn’t even a shadow of what we were created for. Jesus came not only to give us eternal life (Jn 3:16) but abundant life today. “I came that you may have life,” He said, “and life to the full.” (Jn 10:10). This life comes through His Spirit that He gives every believer; the purpose He enables them to fulfil.
Not only does the believer gain peace and life but also wisdom. The Holy Spirit is called the “teacher.” He, through Scripture, teaches us in the way of God. When we do what pleases God, we not only honour Him, but life generally goes better for us. Proverbs 3:8 says, “[Wisdom] will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Walking in the Lord’s wisdom brings the steadfastness of truth to our lives that we don’t naturally have in this world tossed to and fro by changing ideas and thought patterns.
4. Strength For Today
Life can be difficult, even for Christians. God never promised that it wouldn’t. Believers have been freed from the penalty of sin (through the Cross), are being set free from the power of sin (by the Spirit) and will be freed from the presence of sin when Jesus returns. Yet in the meantime Jesus promised to comfort us through His Spirit’s presence. Christ “dwelling in our hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17) and such promises as “I am with you always, to the end of the age” Mt 28) mean that even in the valley of deep darkness the believer can be assured of the Lord’s presence, comfort, help and strength. All of this increases our relational knowledge of God and produces character. This is an assurance and experience a believer does not enjoy.
5. Bright Hope for Tomorrow
Yet not only “Strength for today” but “bright hope for tomorrow” as the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness reminds us. Yes, but I thought we were talking about the here and now, not the future. Indeed, but the future impacts how we live today. The assurance of eternal life means that the believer has hope amidst of the hopelessness of today. One’s belief about tomorrow does shape how we live today after all.
So don’t just think of God when you think about tomorrow, know He is immensely relevant for today too. Would you “call upon Him while He while He is near” today through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?
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