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Archive for July, 2009

What Is the Gospel?

I’ve written on what a Christian is trying to emphasize that a true Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Here is a helpful three minute video that describes what one must believe to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

HT: Vitamin Z

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A little 8 year girl was raped. Her attackers were four boys aged 14, 13, 10 and 9. My mind cannot begin to get around the horror of this violence.

Perhaps as shocking for Westerners is that the family apparently didn’t see her primarily as a victim, but as one who marred the family honor. Yet, for many people in the world the family’s reaction was not shocking, but normal and expected. In some parts of the world the family would not only shun her; they would kill her. They would do it for the family’s honor, which is why we refer to such murders as honor killings.

I’ve been reading a helpful book called Honor: A History by James Bowman. Here is the way he puts this reaction:

In honor cultures, a woman’s honor normally belongs to her husband or father, and the dishonor of any sexual contact outside marriage, whether consensual or otherwise, falls upon him exactly alike, since it shows him up before the world as a man incapable of either controlling or protecting her. Dishonor is more like a fatal disease than a moral failing. It requires constant vigilance and even then can strike anyone at any time. And its only end can be death.

This is such a hopeless and tragic view of shame. Many in the West will emphasize to this little girl that she was not at fault for what happened. They will help her not feel guilty. This is true, important and crucial. But will they be able to help her not feel so dirty? Will they be able to deal with the shame?

This is one more reason I love the One who bears our shame and makes us clean. “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (1 Peter 2:6).

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Earlier I posted on the Islamic view of the end times. Here I am linking to a lecture given by Dr. Wayne Grudem on the Christian view of the end times. You can listen to it and/or read the outline of his lecture.

As Svend pointed out in the comments section of the Islamic view, it is true that there are also various views on the end times within Christian thought, though there is agreement on the fundamentals (Jesus Christ will return, all people will stand before God on judgment day, those whom God accepts by faith in Jesus Christ will live forever with him in the new heaven and new earth and those who reject him will dwell forever in hell).

You can hear all the lectures Dr. Grudem has given on any topic within Systematic Theology at this site.

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We know that Jesus Christ endured great shame as he was crucified on the cross. And yet because of his willingness to endure the cross he was exalted to the position of greatest honor in the universe—the right hand of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11). On the cross Jesus not only bore our guilt, but he also took upon himself our shame. He was willingly stripped, mocked, beaten, and crucified among criminals. Imagine the shame of hanging naked among common criminals waiting for death as those below hurl insults.

Jesus Christ tells us that the whole Old Testament is a book about him (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). When reading the Psalms we remember that we are reading a book that is ultimately about Jesus the Messiah. This is not difficult when we read psalms that are explicitly quoted by New Testament authors who apply them to Jesus. Many psalms are messianic psalms that speak in part to what David or the original author was experiencing, but ultimately they find their fulfillment in the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. What is remarkable is that in many of these messianic psalms we see the promise of one who will willingly bear the shame of God’s people so that they might be honored by being brought near to God.

Psalm 22 begins with these familiar words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Jesus spoke them while hanging on the cross – Matthew 27:46)? David had felt pushed away from God—forsaken. For the King of Israel to be forsaken of God is incredibly shameful. He is the one anointed to be king by God himself and yet he was forsaken. David knew that his fathers trusted in God and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:5) and so he cried out, for he was nothing more than a worm, scorned and despised (v. 6), and mocked by all (v.7-8). In his cries for deliverance he had confidence of God’s salvation, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (Psalm 22:24). There is hope of not being put to shame, for God does listen to the afflicted, to the shamed who cry out to him.

There are many verses in this psalm that are either quoted directly or alluded to in the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ’s suffering and death (v. 1 being the most notable). Certainly we ought not to interpret this psalm solely as a prediction of Christ’s death; we must see it in the context of David’s life and suffering as well, not to mention the way in which it would have given encouragement to the people of God before Jesus came. However, at the same time, we truly do need to see this as being fulfilled in Christ. He is the one crying out, who has felt forsaken. He is the one being put to shame and in quoting the opening verse of this psalm on the cross, he is also the one who is pointing towards a future hope. “I will tell of your name to my brothers in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Psalm 25:22).

In Psalm 69 David is concerned about not only his own honor, but the honor of all who hope in God. This psalm is also looking forward to Jesus.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who see you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s son. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me (Psalm 69:6-9).

This text is quite clearly speaking of Jesus for John quotes the beginning of verse 9 in John 2:17 and Paul quotes the latter part of verse 9 in Romans 15:3. It is on Jesus that our reproaches have fallen and this text makes clear the reason he bears this reproach. It is for God’s sake. It is not an accident, but a willing bearing of another’s shame in order that they may not be put to shame.

Those who put their hope in Jesus the Messiah will not be put to shame. Our shame is removed and we are given the honor of being sons and daughters of God. This comes through the loving bearing of our shame by Jesus Christ. He endured the worst kind of shame on the cross. Yet the worth of his death and resurrection show us just how honorable he truly is.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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It is good to learn about people of other religions, but we must be careful that we don’t only learn about other religions from teachers in our own religion. Yes, I can learn things about Islam from other Christians, but if I am really going to learn about Islam it is essential that I also learn from Muslims.

It is this conviction that prompted me to contact Svend White a few weeks ago. He is a Muslim American who blogs at Akram’s Razor (it’s on my blogroll to the right). I asked him if he would be willing to write an essay called, “What is a Muslim?” that I would post on my blog and if he would post an essay I write called, “What is a Christian?” on his blog. This way his readers would hear from a Christian and my readers would hear from a Muslim. Perhaps there would even be some overlap so that some would become readers of both (wouldn’t that be great!).

He hasn’t been able to finish his essay yet, but as soon as he does I will post it here. Over the weekend he posted my essay, “What is a Christian?” Check it out and say hello to Svend.

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The following is a short video explaining the Islamic view of the end times by Haroon Moghul.

In the video he mentions that Jesus Christ will come back to Damascus. Syrians (and perhaps others) believe he will come back to the minaret of Jesus at the Omayad Mosque. It is the minaret in the back of this picture.

Omayad

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Theology

I love theology. I enjoy thinking hard about who God is. I find it fun to sit around and talk about things like God’s relationship to time (What does it mean to exist before time began?).

I’ve said that the basic premise of this blog is that we cannot love those we don’t know. Certainly studying theology doesn’t necessarily help us know anyone. A Muslim could spend hours reading a book on infant baptism in order to better know his Christian neighbor only to find out that his neigbhor is a baptist and doesn’t believe in infant baptsim. But it can still be helpful.

My neighbor is Eastern Orthodox. Many Christians in the Middle East are Orthodox. I don’t know a lot about them and some of the things I’ve heard were pretty concerning. So I decided I should learn more and read some books on what Orthodox Christians believe. Currently I’m reading The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware. It has been very helpful in correcting some misconceptions about the Orthodox Church (though differences still remain) and has also increased my interest in my neighbor.

So I do think theology can be helpful in getting to know one another (though it can never substitute simply asking each other questions). To that end I will occasionally post links to places we can learn more about Christian and Islamic theology. I’m not nearly as well versed in Islamic theology, so if any Muslim readers have suggestions I’d be happy to take them.

I’ll begin in my next post.

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The Destruction of Peace

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden they destroyed the peace they enjoyed with God. Peace between them was eroded when Adam so quickly blamed Eve and Eve simply blamed the serpent (genuine peace does not exist when we are too proud to admit our own sins). But it was their son who destroyed peace with others most decisively.

Both Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord (see Genesis 4, the Tawrat). God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. This made Cain angry so that God graciously cautioned him, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God personified sin as a predator who desired to destroy Cain and rule over him. If Cain is to do well, he must overcome his sin and rule over it. He must not let himself be a slave to his own sin. Of course, he failed. Sin won and Cain killed his brother. This is the first murder in human history. Any pretension of peace in the family was destroyed. A man killed his own brother. It does not take long for sin to destroy peace with God and peace with others.

The story of Cain and Abel (Qabil and Habil) is also found in the Qur’an (Surah 5:27-32). The way the Qur’an sums up the story is very profound. In verse 32 it says, “For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men.” Killing one is like killing all. Men and women were meant to live in peace. Murder destroys this peace, not just for the one killed, but in a very real sense for us all.

Jesus Christ raised the stakes considerably. He taught us that merely not murdering someone is not enough. There is a greater problem in our hearts. He said in the Injil, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Later in the Injil Jesus the Messiah is contrasted with Cain (1 John 3:11-18). We are called to love one another—to not be like Cain, for he killed his brother. Instead we are to be like the Lord Jesus, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Not murdering is not what it means to love. Not murdering is not the restoration of peace. Laying down our lives is what it means to love. Laying down our lives (both literally and metaphorically) is what it takes to restore peace.

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Charles Spurgeon in Arabic

Charles Spurgeon

In one of the comments Paul pointed me to a site that has Charles Spurgeon’s catechism in Arabic (or you can read it in English).

Spurgeon was one of the greatest 19th century preachers. I am always encouraged when I read his sermons.

As a student of Arabic I am happy to see this translated.

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In western society we most often associate salvation with the forgiveness of our sins—the removal of our guilt and restoration of our innocence. This is certainly a true and important aspect of salvation, but it fails to recognize all that the Gospel accomplishes in our lives. We say yes and amen to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” But then we pass right over texts like 1 Peter 2:6-7, “For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe.”

This is certainly not the perspective of the psalmists. Repeatedly they cry out that they not be put to shame, but that God deliver them. “In you [God] our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Psalm 22:4-5). The deliverance that we so long for is intimately tied up in not being put to shame! “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). This is the hope for those who wait on the Lord. This is the hope for those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 25 is a beautiful example of God’s salvation working to free us from the guilt of sin as well as its shame. David begins, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (Psalm 25:1-2). Then he also says, “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions . . . for your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt for it is great” (Psalm 25:7, 11).

David is concerned with both guilt and shame. It is especially interesting to note what he says after he has asked God to pardon his guilt in verse 11. He speaks of the man who fears the Lord and then tells us what blessings await him—all of them have to do with being honored! “His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” (Psalm 25:13-14).

Then he comes back to his need for forgiveness in verse 18, “Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins.” Yet, even in this verse he speaks of affliction and trouble, which most certainly are concerned, at least in part, with shame. So he cries out again in verse 20, “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”

David properly understood his need. He knew that he needed deliverance from both guilt and shame. And he knew that only God could accomplish it. Our hope is that as we take refuge in God he removes our sin and our shame. Our hope lies in the fact that “though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6). In our humble leaning on God rather than ourselves, God shows us his regard. This is in contrast to his relationship with the haughty whom “he knows from afar.” Honor and shame are tied into relationship. The haughty who think they have honor are removed from relationship with God, while the lowly, who recognize their lack of honor before God, are brought near to him. The lowly rejoice for “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

The sons of Korah sum it up best, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Psalm 84:11-12). It is God who bestows favor and honor and therefore the one who trusts in him is truly blessed.

Read the other posts in this series:

Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”

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