Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jesus' temptations ... and mine

For a number of years, there was a verse in the New Testament that, quite frankly, befuddled me.  (Just one?) It was Hebrews 4:15: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. I believed the verse, as I believe all of God's words, but I certainly didn't understand it.  How could Jesus, living in the first century, be tempted in all the ways that I am, living in the world of the 20th and 21st centuries? I certainly understood that He was sinless, but had He really experienced all the temptations that you or I have? It didn't make sense to me.

You know exactly what I mean.  We can imagine the Child Jesus being tempted to tell a lie, or steal a toy from a friend, or imagine the young Man Jesus being tempted to lust after a pretty girl.  Those are timeless, universal things.  But Jesus never went to school, so He wasn't tempted to cheat on a test.  He was never married, so He wasn't tempted to ignore His wife, or betray her. (He will have a Bride in the spiritual sense, thank God, but I'm talking about His life on earth: that's the context of the verse.)  He was never in the military, so He was never tempted to cowardice in battle, or insubordination to an officer.  He had no children, so he wasn't tempted to scream at His kids or, worse, abuse them. He was never tempted to look at Internet pornography, or to preen and gossip on Facebook or Twitter. But the Bible says He was in all points tempted like as we are.  How could that be?

Finally, someone explained it to me, and suddenly the verse ( which I had doggedly believed, even without understanding) made perfect sense.  The verse doesn't say that Jesus was faced with every single temptation that we are.  It doesn't say that His experience was exactly the same as  ours.  It says that He was tempted in all points like as we are.  Get that combination: "like as...."  It gives us not one, but two qualifiers to explain that it doesn't refer to an identical experience.  I just didn't notice it - - - but every word of God is important, including the little ones.

There are, according to the Bible, really only three types of temptation: and when you've experienced those three, you've experienced them all.  Those are the "points" in which Jesus was tempted, as are you and I.  The Bible lists the "points," and gives very clear examples of each - - - including the example of Jesus, the first time He was here on earth.

In his first epistle, the Apostle John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16).  Those are the three categories of sin, and temptation: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  "Okay," someone says, "that's interesting, but what do those things mean?"  To find out, we don't have to go any further than Genesis, the very first book of the Bible. 

The first human being ever to be tempted was Eve.  The story should be familiar, but there's no substitute for God's word, so let's look at it - - - and highlight the three points of temptation.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:1-6).

(Forget the "talking snake" that the theophobes like to joke about; the Devil was probably a beautiful, fascinating creature at this point: God didn't transform him into his more debased form until verse 14.  And it probably wasn't an apple, either.)

Why did the tree in the midst of the Garden appeal to Eve?  Why was she tempted to break God's commandment and eat it? Because the fruit was good for food, and thus satisfied the lust of the flesh.  ("Lust" isn't always sexual; you can lust over a ham sandwich or a candy bar.) The fruit was pleasant to the eyes, pretty to look at, and satisfied the lust of the eyes. (Nobody's saying that enjoying food or beautiful things is sinful: how many artists have painted "still lifes" that are bowls of fruit?  The only problem for Eve was that this fruit had been placed off-limits by God.  It wasn't her hunger, or her aesthetic sense, that got her in trouble; it was her disobedience.  But she was tempted to disobey in these specific points.) Finally, the fruit was desired to make one wise, and that appealed to the pride of life.  Eve wanted to be wise, but for the wrong reasons; it was a matter of pride.  So there were the three great categories or points of temptation, in a mere handful of fruit. The temptations are even listed in the same order as in 1 John. I wonder if the Apostle John thought about Eve as he penned his epistle?

Maybe not.  He might have been thinking of Jesus, because Jesus experienced these same temptations, during His time with Satan in the wilderness.  From the Gospel of Matthew:

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (Matthew 4:3-9).


Even in tempting Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the Devil used these three points of temptation.  (He also used, or rather misused, Scripture: and he's still doing it today.) Jesus was hungry; so much we know from Matthew 4:2.  So, the first temptation, to make bread from a stone, was the lust of the flesh.  The second temptation, to survive a seemingly suicidal leap, was an appeal to the pride of life. In the third case, by showing Jesus all the kingdoms and their glory, the Devil was appealing to the lust of the eye.  This is why John could say that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are - - - because He was, just as Eve was, and just as you and I are.

No, Jesus was never confronted with Internet porn while He was on earth; but He experienced the temptation of the lust of the eyes.  He was never tempted to snort cocaine or pay for plastic surgery to make Himself "handsome," but he was tempted by the lust of the flesh.  He never undercut a fellow employee for a promotion, or mocked someone just to make Himself feel "superior" (not that He needed to), but he was tempted by the pride of life.  Just like we are, whatever our specific weaknesses are.  He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  He never gave in to the temptation: He was sinless and perfect.

And that's why He's touched with the feeling of our infirmities;  although He never condones our sins or our temptations, He understands the power of temptation.  And that, in turn, is why He can be our Great High Priest, our Mediator before God the Father.  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).  Mary or Muhammad can never be our Mediators; they've never been God, and don't know how God sees things. They only know how people see things. But a Mediator has to understand both sides.  And Jesus Christ does: He's the uncreated, eternal God, and was a Man, tempted like we are.  He got hungry ... but He wouldn't make the bread out of stones.

If you're not a born again Christian, who has received Christ according to John 1:12, this matter of Jesus' temptation probably doesn't mean very much to you.  But if you're a Christian, struggling with temptation, teetering on the brink of sin .... it means more than all the world.  You have a Saviour and Lord Who understands you perfectly.

What a wonderful Christ!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Child marriage: "Muhammad is our model"

This video is seven years old.  Not seven hundred.  It has not exactly"gone viral" on the Internet, but it's available on many sites, and should be available everywhere.  The person in this video is not a fanatical "extremist" or a spokesman for ISIS or Boko Haram: he is a professional "marriage officiant" in Saudi Arabia, the most sacred of all Muslim nations, home to Mecca and Medina.  Here is the official view, from an official wedding officiant, of child rape:


Some one might object, "Well, he's a Saudi; this is merely a cultural thing" (as though that would excuse it).  If such were the case, why haven't his brother Muslims around the world risen up to denounce his views?

From "Mangled Thoughts," an Australian political journal:

Australian Muslims refuse to condemn Dr. Ahmad al-Mu’bi

Why? They cannot be permitted to wriggle their way out of answering why they refuse to condemn that pederast.

How violent he is, is imagninable but not nice to dwell on. Bye the bye, from the photo of Ahmad al-Mu’bi on the MEMRI site, the sod looks exactly what he is.

The explanation of Ahmad al-Mu’bi’s call for the enslavement, assault and rape of infant girls is contained in the item immediately below – “Brumby, Hull, Szoke and Sisely must have these bigots on trial”.
As it is, there is already a serious problem:
Muslim girls being whisked off to the Middle East, by force, to be bound in pre-arranged marriages to thugs. One recollects the account of a girl who was incarcerated in a house until she caved into marrying a cousin. She managed to escape and make it back to the UK before ‘enslavement to primitive beast day’. She was lucky. It is a grave matter that doesn’t disturb ‘mutlticultists’.

Now infant girls! Ponder also, readers: In Iran, in Pakistan, under Taliban, teenage girls and women, innocent or rape victims are convicted under Sharia of adultery, buried up to their chests and stoned to death.

But, living in Brackistan, in accordance with decree 209342, issued by Steve Bracks, John Brumby, Bronwyn Pike, Justin Madden, Rod Hulls, and the Commissars of Right Thinks – Helou, Szoke, Sisel, and a number of justices in regular courts, I do my duty as the property of the Government of Brackistan – in accord with the anti-Bill of Rights, and denounce as bigots any who condemn such holy practices.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Receive Christ?" What's that?

Since starting this blog, several years ago, many references have been made to "receiving Jesus Christ."  But that expression, which sounds so simple, is puzzling to a lot of people, just as it was once puzzling to me.  Let's talk about it.

The term itself comes from the first chapter of John's Gospel.  Referring to Jesus Christ: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:10-13).  So, that's where we get the expression, "receiving Christ."  But what does it mean?

In the first place, it means that Jesus Christ is God: not merely a "great prophet" or "great teacher," but God in the flesh, walking around on earth in a specific time and place. He created the universe, and everything outside the universe.  And, although He was and is the Messiah of the nation of Israel, He's not merely "the Jewish Messiah;" He's the Saviour of all men, Jew and Gentile alike .... if they "receive" Him.  Which brings us back to our question.

What does it mean to "receive Christ?"  Why is it such a big deal?  How is it any different from a "religious conversion" to Islam or Catholicism or Buddhism or Protestantism?  

Because it's not a matter of "religion."  "Religion" is what causes self-righteousness and small-mindedness and wars.  This is a matter of your individual, very personal relationship with your Creator.  And make no mistake: you have such a relationship already, whether you want it or not.  Whether you're at odds with Him, or apathetic toward Him, or you're reconciled to Him and in fellowship with Him, there's a relationship - - - even if you're an agnostic or atheist.  You may not acknowledge the relationship, but it's there.  

And, like every man or woman ever born on this earth, you're a sinful creature.  It doesn't matter whether your sins are "big," like murder or theft or sexual immorality, or "small," like envy or gossip or selfishness.  If you deny it, you're only fooling yourself - - - although most people don't deny it, at least in their heart of hearts. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one, the Bible says (Romans 3:10); for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And sinful people need a Saviour: from their sins, from themselves, and from an eternity in Hell.  That's why Jesus said, speaking of Himself, He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:18, 19). Now, I didn't say that.  Rick Warren or Billy Graham didn't say that.  Jesus Christ said that: and if you doubt it, your quarrel is with Him, and nobody else.

What does it mean to "believe on him?"  Does it mean to believe that He existed, or that He was a nice guy, the way you "believe in" one of your friends, or some celebrity you've never met?  No; it means to receive Him.

(This is described much more fully in the section of this blog entitled "Hey, dummy!"  If you don't consider yourself a dummy [and some dummies have very high I.Q.s], you might not have read that section.)

"Receiving Christ" is very simple.  Making the decision to do it might not be easy, but the process is simple.  You simply go to God, directly (you don't need a priest or a preacher or a "counsellor"), and accept Him, on His own terms, and give yourself to Him.  (Believe me, you'll be getting the better end of that deal!)  You don't recite an ancient chant while counting some beads, and you don't need an eloquent prayer that some great preacher wrote a hundred years ago.  You talk to Him directly.  You might say something like "God, I know that I'm a sinner, and that I can't fix myself or save myself.  I know that I deserve Hell, and that's where I'm headed, if You don't save me.  But God, as much as I understand of myself, I'm giving to as much as I understand of You.  Please save me, for Jesus' sake!"  

That's just a suggestion, of course.  You can put it in your own words, just as you'd talk to anyone else.  But you must acknowledge your true condition - - - that you're lost and clueless and without hope - - - and ask God to save you.  If you do that honestly, without crossing your fingers or playing any games, He'll save you - - - and you will have received Christ.

Now, you can do a lot of things that are "religious," and still be unsaved.  You can repent of your sins, and confess them, and still go to Hell: that's what Judas did.  Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

You can believe in Jesus, with your intellect, and be baptized, and still go to Hell: that's another thing that Judas did, and so did Simon the sorcerer. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done ... And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8, selected verses).  

You can ask the godliest people you know, or even "Mary and the saints," to pray for you, and still go to Hell:  that's what Pharaoh did. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer (Exodus 9:27, 28). 

But you cannot receive Jesus Christ, personally, and go to Hell: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12,13). "Sons of God" don't go to Hell!

Did you get that last part?  About being born of God?  That's why Jesus says, Ye must be born again (John 3:3-7).  When you receive Christ, you're born again, and although you're still you, and haven't lost your individuality, you're now a new creature.  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And that's just the start of your new life; it will never end. You will have begun an eternity in fellowship and reconciliation with your Creator.  Not because of anything "good" or "religious" that you've done .... but because of what Jesus did, on Calvary, and what He's willing to do today.

If you haven't received Christ, why not do it now?  It's very simple: Do it on His terms, and if you take Him, He'll take you.

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

Monday, March 16, 2015

For Netanyahu

As Israel prepares to go to the polls in their latest parliamentary elections, perhaps a few simple words from an American would not be resented.  Like this blog, Academy Award winning actor Jon Voight is an outspoken defender of Israel, and has delivered an urgent message to Israeli voters.  I hope and pray that they support Netanyahu's party, and make possible the continuance in office of a prime minister in the same mold as Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin.  This is no time to falter in Israel's resistance to Mohammedan madness and the shameful betrayal of God's nation by the Obama administration.  Our prayers are with the voters of Israel.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Religion is just a crutch!"

You've heard the statement many times ... and perhaps you've said it yourself.  "Religion is just a crutch!  It's something that weak people, or weak-minded people, use to get through life, instead of facing their problems realistically!"  Concerning which, a few observations:

1.  To begin with, this isn't a terribly original "objection" to Christianity, or any other religion: it's probably been around as long as there have been believers, non-believers,  and outright cynics.  When you hear someone making this claim, you're not hearing any great intellectual insight; you're more likely to be hearing someone mindlessly repeating a convenient cliché that he or she picked up from someone else.  But it's one of the favorite arguments against religion, because (a) it makes the skeptic feel smart and strong and capable, thus massaging his or her personal ego; and (b) because it's an easy way of insulting an entire group of people for whom you have contempt.

The most famous statement of the cliché, and perhaps the most misquoted, is Karl Marx's "Religion is the opiate of the masses."  (Actually, the "opiate" metaphor was probably coined first by the Marquis de Sade, the insane sexual deviate whose very name is used to describe a certain perversion, who wrote in 1797, "Religion acts merely as an opiate.") But Marx, while totally godless and implacably opposed to religion, made a much more nuanced statement.  In  the introduction to a work he never completed, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Marx wrote: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."  His statement was more poignant than bitter, and was not intended as a "cheap shot" against religious people, who he regarded as victims, not villains.  But he's been misquoted by every teenage cynic and every alcoholic college professor who ever wanted to defend his or her own unbelief.  In any event, if you consider "religion is just a crutch" to be a deeply intellectual statement, your intellectual forebears are the Marquis de Sade and Karl Marx.  You just haven't examined the matter closely enough to know it.  That sometimes happens when you're just parroting clichés.

2.  In many, many cases, the statement is true.  (You didn't expect me to say that, did you?)  The sad and sorry fact is that, in this fallen world, a lot of people need a crutch, or several crutches, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that, at some point in our lives, all of us need a crutch, if only during a temporary crisis.  It might be another person, a friend or counsellor or spouse.  It might be a bank loan.  It might be something else, like a bottle or a cigarette or some "primo weed." And, very often, it might be religion: attending Jumu'ah, flipping the Rosary beads, meditating on the Amitabha Sutra, or even "getting clear" with Tom Cruise and John Travolta and all the other "intellectual" Scientologists.  People from every walk of life use religion as a crutch.  Why deny it?  People need a crutch, or many crutches.  If you don't, it's not because you're smart or strong; it's because you've never been through any difficulties.  You're a hothouse flower who knows nothing of the real world.

3.  Finally, and most important, a very simple distinction.  Forget Islam and Roman Catholicism and Secular Humanism and Protestantism.  Those are "religions." Genuine Biblical Christianity isn't a religion at all, primarily (although it fits some of the definitions).  Genuine Biblical Christianity is a relationship with a living Person, a one-on-One acquaintance with Jesus Christ Himself, as revealed in the Bible and proclaimed by millions who have received Him according to John 1:12. Yes, those of us who have accepted Christ have various forms of worship and various doctrines, and God knows we have plenty of churches; in that, true Christianity may be called a religion.  But, at its most basic, at its most real, Christianity is a daily relationship with God.  

And it's not just a "belief in God," or even a belief that Jesus was the Son of God.  I believe, quite firmly, that Barack Obama and Pope John XXIII and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Elvis Presley are, or were, real people who really existed, or who still exist - - - but I've never met any of them.  I've never even seen them with my own eyes, in person.  I can't talk to them.  They don't know my name or my face.  I can't go to them for help when I'm in trouble, or when my heart is breaking, or when I want to share some joyous news.  But I can go to Jesus Christ - - - because I've met Him, when I was born again according to John 3:3-7.  That was over forty years ago, when I was not quite twenty years old.  And I've known Him and talked with Him and been comforted and taught and corrected by Him every day since.  

Is He, as the egomaniacal cynics would sneer, my "imaginary friend?"  Nope.  I'm not ashamed to say that, when I've felt the need, I've consulted professional psychiatrists, and I can empirically prove, by their attestation, that I'm not delusional. (The DSM-V might not endorse my faith, but it rules out any "delusional thinking" on my part!) Can you?

Yes, "religion" is a crutch; and, like Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous, it helps many people.  But it doesn't offer permanent peace, or an assurance of a personal future, like Jesus Christ does.  

Jesus Christ, not "religion," is my crutch: and my Friend and my Companion and the one living Being whose love I never have to question. He's kept me alive and sane and relatively healthy when nothing else could.  

What's your crutch?