The Miracle of Christmas, From the Bible

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God
He was with God in the beginning

All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created

Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it
The true light, who gives light to everyone,
was coming into the world

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation
For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities
— all things have been created through Him and for Him
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together
He is the beginning,
the firstborn,
so that He might come to have first place in everything

He was in the world,
and the world was created through Him,
yet the world did not recognize Him
He came to His own,
and His own people did not receive Him
But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,
who were born, not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man, but of God
The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth

He, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men

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
For God did not send His Son into the world
that He might condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him
Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned,
but anyone who does not believe is already condemned,
because he has not believed
in the name of the One and Only Son of God
This, then, is the judgment:
The light has come into the world,
and people loved darkness rather than the light
because their deeds were evil

As it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one
There is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God
All have turned away;
all alike have become useless
There is no one who does what is good, not even one
Their throat is an open grave;
they deceive with their tongues
Vipers’ venom is under their lips
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and wretchedness are in their paths,
and the path of peace they have not known
There is no fear of God before their eyes

But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of His great love that He had for us,
sent His Son into the world
that the world might be saved through Him
For while we were still helpless,
at the appointed moment,
Christ died for the ungodly
But God proves His own love for us
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us!
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death
— even to death on a cross

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?

Merry Christmas, reader! With what little time we have left today, let’s remember that when Jesus was born, the impossible happened. God Himself, the sustainer and creator of the universe, became a created human in need of sustenance. Out of completely free and gratutious love He chose to be a human being for us, so that by His life and death we might live and no longer die. God took on humanity to Himself so that God might take in humanity to Himself. The Father came to us through His Spirit in His Son so that we can meet the Father through His Spirit in His Son. With the birth of Jesus, God came down to man and man came up to God. The result was salvation and love of for all people. Truly this is good news of great joy, so be glad!

And if you’re like me, the magnitude of this great news can even have the effect of making you less joyful when you realize you don’t live up to it. You might feel like to God: “Here is where You’re finding me, in the exact same place as New Year’s Eve. And from the lack of my persistence, see, we’re less than half as close as I want to be.” I am there, and so are many others. Praise God that even though we fail and fall, sometimes finding ourselves taking two steps forward and three steps back in one year, through Jesus we have a Mediator and Savior, who keeps us in God’s life even when we would otherwise fall away. Trust in Him, as I’m trying to do.

Merry Christmas to all! Solus Christus!

The Miracle of Christmas, From the Bible

An Android Analogy for God’s Sovereignty: Xposed Causality

If you are a pretty serious Android user, you’ve probably heard of the Xposed Framework. It is wonderful magic that lets you basically do anything to your phone/tablet without installing a new version of Android or modifying system apps.

Recently, when deliberating on God’s sovereignty, it struck me that the way Xposed works could actually make a decent analogy. Since, as I mentioned in my last EC post, I don’t still accept the Calvinist/Westminster view of God’s sovereignty as His determining every single future event and choice, this came in handy. I finally found an alternative way to conceive of God’s providential rule over the happenings of the world.

If you don’t know how Xposed works, it creates “hooks” into every Android app. This allows you to access any code used by any app and mess with it. You can replace, modify, contradict, or simply observe the normal programming for your own purposes.

To give an example, imagine I have a Facebook app with a block of code called loadProfilePicture. What it does should be obvious: it loads someone’s profile picture. Now, with Xposed, you can hook right into this function and do whatever you want with it whenever the app tries to use it. You could simply copy the loaded picture for your own use, replace it with another one, edit it, or stop it from loading at all. You can work in, with, through, or against the normal operations of the Facebook app to do what you want to do. In real life examples, the GravityBox app pretty well allows you to customize any behavior of your phone, from wallpaper management to button redirection to navigation bar appearance and more.

How this can relate to God should be pretty straightforward. God is the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. The natural order is upheld and exists entirely by His creative power and will. So everything is laid bare at His disposal, giving Him “backdoor” access into all the operations of the world. He has by virtue of His role as the ground of all being the ability to break into anything that happens and every choice people make, and do whatever He wishes. He doesn’t even need to override anyone’s will or defy the laws of physics, though He could. He has just as much ability to work in, through, and with what is already coming to pass. In this way He can direct everything toward the end He intends.

Of course, the end to which God is working in all things is revealed to us in Scripture. He works all things together for our good, He sums up all things in Christ, and He reconciles all things to Himself through Jesus’ atoning death. Ultimately, God is love, and He wishes to bring all people to Himself, to usher them all into the Trinitarian fellowship of His own eternal life. So we can rest assured that He can and does work in all things for that end. How else would He be God?

An Android Analogy for God’s Sovereignty: Xposed Causality

My Favorite Christmas Song

This is my absolute favorite Christmas song. The first part with Silent Night/Away in a Manger is good, but I really love I Celebrate The Day because I completely identify with it. Pay close attention to the lyrics and see if you do, too.

Here is where You’re finding me
In the exact same place as New Year’s Eve
And from the lack of my persistence, see
We’re less than half as close as I want to be


A Different Kind of Calvinism: Let’s Talk Sovereignty and Maybe Jesus’ Humanity

When I left off explaining EC last time, I gave an unfortunately brief sketch of the EC view of human freedom. Human freedom, as opposed to libertarian free will, is grounded in God’s life of Triune love, given to us through Christ as the image of God in whom we were created. I left much unanswered, though, so here I plan to address two more topics: the relation of God’s sovereignty to human will, and a doctrine called “the vicarious humanity of Christ.” There’s a lot to say here., and this will be a bit longer than the previous posts, so let’s dive right in.

Does God Predetermine All Our Actions?

A defining trait of classical, TULIP Calvinism (TC, as usual) is the belief in divine determinism. This just means that God decides on His own everything that will ever happen, including all the choices people make. This does not mean there are no secondary causes, or that God forces people to do things against their will. It means that God even plans and decides what people want to do, and therefore also what they actually do. Here’s a quote from the Westminster Confessions, a very Calvinist document, updated somewhat freely to more modern language and formatting:

God—from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will—freely and unchangeably ordained everything that comes to pass. But He did so in a way that neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence done to the will of the created beings, nor is the liberty or factoring of second causes taken away. Instead these are established.

So like I said, TC believes God sets up absolutely everything that will ever happen. This includes every sin ever committed, every horrific death, every starving child, and every time someone rejects the Gospel and is damned. People sin because they want to, sure, but they want to because God set up their whole lives to control their wants and actions. People are condemned for their sin, but whence comes their sin? Naturally, EC does not work this way. Determining people to commit and experience evil is simply not what God does. How do we know that? Jesus. We can reject the idea that the God Jesus revealed who wept over Israel’s rebellion did so as a show, having actually planned their stubbornness. Jesus did not set up the Pharisees to oppose Him so that He could condemn them. There is no God behind the back of Jesus. On the other hand, we do not think that God is in no control. On the contrary, He works all things for good. He plans and directs all things, even while not causing them or being the one who chooses every single event. While He leaves room for humans and all creation to have an existence that is authentically independent of His controlling will, He also maintains the ability to make sure His good will wins over all the forces which try to oppose Him. How is this?

There is no God behind the back of Jesus.

Let us be clear: God has not revealed in Scripture the precise details of “how” He works things out the way He wants. We must recognize that there probably is not decent analogy for the relationship between the God who created and sustains all things from before time and His creation. This said, I do think there is a concept that might be useful for us. See, God sustains all things. The whole world exists by the power of His word, and in Him all things hold together. In Him we live and move and have our being. This means that everything that happens and everything we do requires God’s creative power to be real. I think this naturally leaves open the space for God to work “behind the scenes,” but not in some secret predestining of every action. Instead, God uses His place to do what He has told us in His word, namely to work all things out for good, to sum up all things in Christ, and to reconcile all things to Himself. Everything we do and everything that simply happens is taken by God and ordered into His singular purpose for the world: the union of heaven and earth, God and man, through Jesus. From His position as the sustainer of everything, God has the ability to work with, in, through, or even on occasion against the normal flow of things to bring it all to its proper conclusion. In this way He makes everything work toward His own truly good intention.

Sin is not God’s will, but neither does it thwart His will.

In this way, we do not have to agree with TC in saying that all things, even sin, are truly God’s will in an important way, but we also do not have to say that God is simply working with what He gets, like an outsider with no real control. I think this fits the Biblical picture of God’s work very well.

What the Heck Does “Vicarious Humanity” Mean?

Another thing I’ve mentioned in previous posts and said I would cover here is the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. So what on earth do those words mean? Well, to put it simply, Jesus was human for us. Of course, that Jesus was human for us seems obvious. But what does that really mean? The way many people see it, Jesus basically became human so that He could justly fulfill the Law given to humans and take the punishment humans deserved. If He were not human, He simply wouldn’t be legally eligible to be our Savior. The problem is that this misses what Jesus has done for us on an ontological (that is, pertaining to inner reality) level. Jesus did not merely fulfill an external legal role by being human. Instead, by becoming a human being, Jesus brought humanity and God together in Himself, in one person. Since Jesus was (and is!) both God and man, His actions were both those of God coming down to bless humanity and of humanity responding to God with obedience and faith. How Jesus’ vicarious humanity relates to us is that He lived the perfect human life, which is the basis for our life. Jesus trusted in the Father. Jesus obeyed the Law. Jesus loved His neighbor, did true good works, and lived in every respect a completely human and completely flawless life. We cannot do these things because of sin. Sin keeps us from trusting the Father, obeying the Law, loving our neighbor, doing truly good works, and living completely human and flawless lives. Yet Jesus does not let sin win. By the Holy Spirit, we get to participate in Jesus’ life.

Jesus did not merely fulfill an external legal role by being human.

This point is fundamental to how EC understands salvation. When we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins, get baptized, and live a life of holy love, we do not do them alone. As Paul said, it is I, yet not I but Christ in me. Your faith happens because the Holy Spirit has connected you to Jesus, who had perfect faith. So through the Spirit you can also have Jesus-based faith. When we repent, we are really living out Jesus’ life of turning away from sin, brought into us through the Holy Spirit. Because of this truth, we can be fully assured of our salvation. We do not need to live up to a certain level of faith or good works to know that we are saved. Even if our faith and works stink, Jesus’ are perfect, and His are the real things behind ours. Because the Holy Spirit is truly the Spirit of Jesus Christ, when we have Him were are so deeply connected to Jesus that the resurrection and salvation He won by His own perfection are brought into our own lives.

Even if our faith and works stink, Jesus’ are perfect, and His are the real things behind ours.

At this point, one might ask, “So am I not really important? Is Jesus the only one doing anything? Am I just an empty puppet for the Holy Spirit?” The answer to this is “By no means!” Jesus is not a puppet-master, but the giver of Life. When Jesus’ life comes to us through the Spirit, we become our true selves. Jesus is, to quote Thomas Torrance, a “personalizing Person.” He does not eliminate our personhood by living in us, but instead creates it! Jesus’ vicarious humanity means that He is the human who makes all of us truly human. So salvation is all of Christ, but that doesn’t mean nothing of us. “All of grace” becomes “all of man.”

Wrapping Up

I know this post was too long, and it covered a lot of pretty deep stuff. But I do hope it has been helpful and even edifying. When I began studying Evangelical Calvinism, I didn’t get a lot of what it was saying, but now it is so refreshing to my soul. I think I see Jesus more clearly, and more as love, than I did before, and I enjoy it. This is the end of my EC series, so I know there are questions I haven’t answered. I imagine for every question I did answer, you may now have five more. So if you have questions, please comment and I will address them in a final FAQ. You can also email me at if you want to discuss anything more in depth. 

A Different Kind of Calvinism: Let’s Talk Sovereignty and Maybe Jesus’ Humanity

A Few Silly Christian Jokes

Christian jokes. Gotta’ love ’em. Without further ado, here’s what I got:

Baptist Jokes

You might be a Southern Baptist if:

  • You think God’s presence is strongest on the back three pews.
  • Your definition of fellowship has something to do with food.
  • You honestly believe that the Apostle Paul spoke King James English.
  • You think Jesus actually used Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers.
  • You think someone who says “Amen” while the preacher is preaching might be a Charismatic.
  • You clapped in church and felt guilty about it all week.
  • You got saved at 6 years old.
  • You are old enough to get a senior discount at the pharmacy, but not old enough to promote to the Senior Adult Sunday School.
  • You judge all church meals by the quantity and quality of the fried chicken.
  • You’ve ever gossipped about how much someone else gossips.
  • You have never sung the third verse of any hymn.
Why don’t Baptists believe in premarital sex?
Because it might lead to dancing.
What’s the difference between a Pentecostal and a Baptist?
One believes in a second blessing and one believes in a second helping.

Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God.
Protestants don’t recognize the pope as the Ruler of the Church.
Baptists don’t recognize each other in a liquor store.

One day a man dies, who was a devout Christian. Saint Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and begins to give him a tour of Heaven. As the tour goes on, Saint Paul points out all the different Christians. “There’s the Catholics, there’s the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians”, and so forth. As they come to this one group way off to themselves, Saint Paul motions for the man to come closer and whispers. “Now, for this next group, we need to be really quiet. They are the Baptists and they think they’re the only ones here.”

How do we know Adam was Baptist? Only a Baptist could stand next to a naked woman and be tempted by food.

A teacher asked her students to bring an item to class that represented their religious beliefs. A Catholic student brought a crucifix. A Jewish student brought a Menora. A Southern Baptist student brought a casserole.

A Dictionary of Arminian Terms

  • All (1): All always means all. Yup, Jesus died for every single human, including those already dead and in hell, and even including himself.
    (2): (as to sin) If its related to sin, “all” doesn’t include babies.
  • Arminius, Jacob: The first church father.
  • Assurance: Keep trying, hopefully you’ll make it, but since you have libertarian free will, you could just flip sides one day. Never can tell.
  • Bible: Cool book with stories that can be used as springboards into inspiring sermons about nothing to do with the text whatsoever. (See exegesis.)
  • Calvinism: We love everyone, because God is love. Calvinists are devil worshipers, their God is the devil, and Calvinism is a devil worshiping doctrine. We love them.
  • Calvin, John: Satan incarnated.
  • Dead (1): (as to Christ) Really, complete dead. Unable to see, hear, or respond to stimuli.
    (2): (as to Adam’s posterity) Somewhat sick. It’s hard to see, hear, or respond to the Gospel.
  • Determinism: False Calvinist teaching that God makes sure that his plan will come about.
  • Devil Worship: What Calvinism leads to. (Really.)
  • Drawing: Wooing. Usage example: “Drawing doesn’t mean God will surely bring men to himself, he (now, pooch lips out, making a small opening, and, in a low voice say) woooos them.”
  • Effectual call: Unbiblical Calvinist doctrine. Just as Calvinists try to make unwarranted leaps from physical death to spiritual death, they also make unwarranted leaps from earthly careers like “Shepherding,” viz., “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, they follow me,” to how God brings in his people in the flock, er fold, er, group.
  • Election: God’s “choosing” of people who chose him first. Kind of like me “voting” for the president after November 4th, 2008.
  • Evil: Something God cannot decree (except in the case of Jesus since God decreed his death at the purposeful hands of humans)
  • Exegesis: What?

A Dictionary of Calvinist Terms

  • All (1): (as to salvation) The elect. Duh.
    (2): (as to sin) All means all, and that’s all all means.
  • Arminianism: see false Gospel.
  • Arminius, Jacob: Father of heresies.
  • Assurance: If you’re elect, you’re guaranteed a spot in heaven. No worries. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. How do you know you’re elect? Well…
  • Bible: Book with lots of random references to Calvinism.
  • Calvinism: A nickname for the Gospel.
  • Calvin, John: The only divinely inspired prophet since the closing of the canon.
  • Determinism: God determined from eternity past how your child will die.
  • Drawing: Forceful and irresistible, but altogether pleasant, dragging by God.
  • Effectual call: When God flicks the switch in your heart to make you love Him for realsies. But He only does that to the elect.
  • Election: How God segregated the human race into Calvinists and everyone else.
  • Evil: God’s clever invented enemy He crushed to make Himself look good.
  • Exegesis: The art of making all of the Bible Calvinist.

Light Bulb Denominational Jokes

How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
One, since his/her hands are in the air anyway.
How many Calvinists does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. God has predestined when the lights will be on.
How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
10, as they need to hold a debate into whether or not the lightbulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the lightbulb they may not go ahead and change it for fear of alienating those who use fluorescent tubes.
How many Anglo-Catholics does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. They always use candles instead.
How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb?
Arminians do not change light bulbs. They simply read out the instructions and hope the light bulb will decide to change itself.
How many Atheists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But they are still in darkness.
How many Brethren does it take to change a light bulb?
How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb?
10, one to change it and 9 others to pray against the spirit of darkness.
How many TV evangelists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But for the message of hope to continue to go forth, send in your donation today.
How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.
How many charismatics does it take to change a lightbulb?
Three. One to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls.

Cheesy Dialogue Jokes

A collector of rare books ran into an acquaintance who told him he had just thrown away an old Bible that he found in a dusty, old box. He happened to mention that Guten-somebody-or-other had printed it.

“Not Gutenberg?” gasped the collector.

“Yes, that was it!”

“You idiot! You’ve thrown away one of the first books ever printed. A copy recently sold at auction for half a million dollars!”

“Oh, I don’t think this book would have been worth anything close to that much,” replied the man. “It was scribbled all over in the margins by some guy named Martin Luther.”

There was a barber that thought that he should share his faith with his customers more than he had been doing lately. So the next morning when the sun came up and the barber got up out of bed he said, “Today I am going to witness to the first man that walks through my door.”

Soon after he opened his shop the first man came in and said, “I want a shave!” The barber said, “Sure, just sit in the seat and I’ll be with you in a moment.” The barber went in the back and prayed a quick desperate prayer saying, “God, the first customer came in and I’m going to witness to him. So give me the wisdom to know just the right thing to say to him. Amen.”

Then quickly the barber came out with his razor knife in one hand and a Bible in the other while saying “Good morning sir. I have a question for you… Are you ready to die?”

A boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is great!” he yelled without worrying whether anyone heard him or not.

Shortly after, along came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.

“Hey” asked the boy in return with a bright laugh, “Don’t you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.”

The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the “realities” of the miracles of the Bible. “That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across.”

The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.

“Wow!” exclaimed the boy happily, “God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!”

Pearly Gates Jokes

A fellow finds himself in front of the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter explains that its not so easy to get in heaven.
There are some criteria before entry is allowed.
For example, was the man religious in life? Attend church? No?
St. Peter told him that’s bad.
Was he generous? give money to the poor? Charities? No?
St. Peter told him that that too was bad.
Did he do any good deeds? Help his neighbor? Anything? No?
St. Peter was becoming concerned. Exasperated, Peter says, “Look, everybody does something nice sometime.
Work with me, I’m trying to help. Now think!”

The man says, “There was this old lady. I came out of a store and found her surrounded by a dozen Hell’s Angels. They had taken her purse and were shoving her around, taunting and abusing her. I got so mad I threw my bags down, fought through the crowd, and got her purse back. I then helped her to her feet. I then went up to the biggest, baddest biker and told him how despicable, cowardly and mean he was and then spat in his face”.

“Wow”, said Peter, “That’s impressive. When did this happen”?
“Oh, about 10 minutes ago”, replied the man.

Three men were standing in line to get into heaven one day.

Apparently it had been a pretty busy day, though, so Peter had to tell the first one, “Heaven’s getting pretty close to full today, and I’ve been asked to admit only people who have had particularly horrible deaths. So what’s your story?”

So the first man replies: “Well, for a while I’ve suspected my wife has been cheating on me, so today I came home early to try to catch her red-handed. As I came into my 25th floor apartment, I could tell something was wrong, but all my searching around didn’t reveal where this other guy could have been hiding. Finally, I went out to the balcony, and sure enough, there was this man hanging off the railing, 25 floors above ground! By now I was really mad, so I started beating on him and kicking him, but wouldn’t you know it, he wouldn’t fall off. So finally I went back into my apartment and got a hammer and starting hammering on his fingers. Of course, he couldn’t stand that for long, so he let go and fell — but even after 25 stories, he fell into the bushes, stunned but okay. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the fridge and threw it over the edge where it landed on him, killing him instantly. But all the stress and anger got to me, and I had a heart attack and died there on the balcony.”

“That sounds like a pretty bad day to me,” said Peter, and let the man in.

The second man comes up and Peter explains to him about heaven being full, and again asks for his story.

“It’s been a very strange day. You see, I live on the 26th floor of my apartment building, and every morning I do my exercises out on my balcony. Well, this morning I must have slipped or something, because I fell over the edge. But I got lucky, and caught the railing of the balcony on the floor below me. I knew I couldn’t hang on for very long, when suddenly this man burst out onto the balcony. I thought for sure I was saved, when he started beating on me and kicking me. I held on the best I could until he ran into the apartment and grabbed a hammer and started pounding on my hands. Finally I just let go, but again I got lucky and fell into the bushes below, stunned but all right. Just when I was thinking I was going to be okay, this refrigerator comes falling out of the sky and crushes me instantly, and now I’m here.”

Once again, Peter had to concede that that sounded like a pretty horrible death.

The third man came to the front of the line, and again Peter explained that heaven was full and asked for his story.

“Picture this,” says the third man, “I’m hiding inside a refrigerator…”

A Few Silly Christian Jokes

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

Tears. They filled Martha’s eyes as she spoke with the man before her. She respected him and was happy to see him, but couldn’t help but be slightly angry at him. He could have fixed things. He should have been there. She’d choked out some words of trust to him, but they were somewhat hollow.

Then he replied. And his reply turned her dejected expression to a puzzled one. He told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

If it’s not obvious now, I recount the funeral of Lazarus here, and the one who spoke those mystifying and powerful words is none other than Jesus Himself. When Lazarus died, Jesus told the mourning sisters that He was the resurrection and the life. And of course He followed this up by actually raising Lazarus from the dead. “What a magnificent miracle!” we think upon hearing the story.

In my own life, death has reared its ugly head twice in only a few weeks. First it claimed my grandfather, and now also my aunt. Both tragedies were on the same side of the family, so it’s been a traumatic season for the Smiths.

In the wake of both losses, I’ve been gripped by a particular thought, one which lies at the heart of our faith. Resurrection has been the hopeful theme. While the funeral preaching attempted to comfort us all with the thought of loved ones now in heaven, I found myself consoled, even excited, by the prospect of the coming resurrection. One day I could see life pulsing once again through the very same bodies which had just gone cold. Where there was now no breath, there will be breath again. And this will be no mere reanimation, with the new life just a return to the same frail bodily existence which ended, but a glorious restoring transformation. The physical, tangible matter I’ve seen, heard, and hugged will be back and better than ever before by the power of the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

Honestly, it saddens me how neglected this hope is. You could hear a hundred sermons even at funerals in most churches and never know that one of the basis tenants of our faith is the resurrection of the dead. Heaven is seen as our home and final destination, when Biblically and Christianly it is really our vacation home, a place to rest between death and new life. Yet Jesus died and then rose precisely so that we also could rise after death.

Let’s not forget this. The salvation we’ve been given is not just for our souls, but also our bodies. We will see those we love in Christ again, not just as ghosts but real, touchable people in a solid, tangible new creation. It’s exhilarating. And it is comfort. Death is not the last word. Life is. Because we are in Jesus, who says to us all in our grieving and sorrow, when tragedy strikes and relationships are cut off, just one glorious encouragement:

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

Yeah, About that “Abstain from All Appearance of Evil” Thing

All my life I heard Christians tell me to be careful about how my actions look to others. They bring out 1 Thessalonians 5:22 in the trusty KJV, which says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” So there you have it!
“Don’t do anything,” you would hear, “that might look compromising.”

Because of this belief, lots of “not-rules” have appeared. Sure, it might not sinful to drink, but you shouldn’t do it anyway because it might appear evil. Yeah, maybe you could evangelize people at bars, but that would hurt your witness so you shouldn’t actually do it. You get the idea.

The problem with all this at face value is that, well, Jesus didn’t seem to agree. Jesus went to parties with tax collectors of the worst reputation. He spent lots of time ministering to prostitutes and remained unmarried, which is sure to raise glances. The Pharisees couldn’t get away with accusing Him of being a drunkard and glutton if He didn’t spend an awfully suspicious amount of time eating and drinking (alcohol, mind you), especially with unsavory characters.

Really, when you look at Jesus’ life in comparison to the popular use of “abstain from all appearance of evil,” it doesn’t seem to match up. Did Jesus do wrong? Should we not follow His example?

Of course, that’s not right. The problem is our understanding of the word “appearance.” In modern English, it usually is used about what something looks like, so that the verse means “abstain from all that looks like evil.” But that’s not the only meaning of “appearance,” and the one the KJV intends had to do with instances, or when something shows up, in its different ways. To make this clear, look at the same verse in translations for modern English norms:

  • NIV: reject every kind of evil
  • NLT/HCSB: Stay away from every kind of evil.
  • ESV/NASB: Abstain from every form of evil.
  • NET Bible: Stay away from every form of evil.

The idea of the verse is that, whenever evil appears, however it appears, we should keep away. We should avoid everything that is evil, every kind and from it takes.

What the verse is not saying is that we must watch everything we do to make sure none of it can be misinterpreted wrongly. Christians have not, historically, believed that to be necessary. The early church was content to meet in private early in the day, doing all sorts of things that aroused suspicion. They rarely made an effort to disprove the people who thought they killed babies, practiced cannibalism, and wanted to overthrow society. They were too busy doing good, even when it looked wrong to onlookers.

So don’t worry too much. While you shouldn’t do stupid things that make you look bad, always do what is right, always love, always enjoy the good things God have given you, and always be willing to share the Truth with others, even when it makes other people (even Christians) raise an eyebrow.

P.S. Here is on this for people who care: 1 Thessalonians 5:22— The Sin Sniffer’s Catch-All Verse

Yeah, About that “Abstain from All Appearance of Evil” Thing