Let’s question “the best use of the time”

Paul, in the book of Ephesians says, 

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). 

We are told to make the “best use of the time.” So, let’s be intentional about our time (“look carefully”). Let’s question “the best use of the time.” Let’s use technology as an aid and not a distraction and hindrance to accomplishing the things we have been given to do. 

Jonathan Edwards points out that

“If men were as lavish of their money as they are of their time, if it were as common a thing for them to throw away their money, as it is for them to throw away their time, we should think them beside themselves, and not in the possession of their right minds. Yet time is a thousand times more precious than money; and when it is gone, cannot be purchased for money, cannot be redeemed by silver or gold.”[1]

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Cosmic, Corporate, and Individual Reconciliation through Union with Christ (Part 4)

Ministry of Reconciliation through Christ

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Jesus and Jihad (part two)

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Jesus and Jihad

I talked to a Muslim friend recently that said Islam and Christianity are ninety-six percent the same. I strongly disagree with him and believe most informed Muslims would as well. There is an irrevocable difference between Christianity and Islam. Some Christian missionaries go and die if need be, whereas some Muslim “missionaries” go and kill if need be. This is because Jesus died and said take up your crosses whereas Muhammad killed and said take up your swords. Jesus promises salvation through justification; Muhammad claims it comes through jihad. 

It is important to understand that Jesus (Isa in the Qur’an) is quite prominent in the Qur’an and is held to be a prophet. The Qur’an assumes that its readers will have a working knowledge of Jesus and His teaching (cf. Surah 2:136; 4:29; 5:46). Islam even teaches that Jesus will return and carry out justice and “break the cross.”[1] However, there is a very large contrast between what the Qur’an teaches about religious use of violence and what Jesus teaches on violence. So, let’s look at what Jesus has to say about violence.

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Jesus and Jihad (part one)

 

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Introduction

Islam has many expressions. It is not monolithic. We are wrong if we think we understand Muslims because we have met one or read the Qur’an. That is a simplistic and false understanding. “Islam is a dynamic and varied religious tradition.”[1] In the same way, if you have met a Christian and read the New Testament, for example, that does not mean that you understand Christianity. “The range of contemporary Muslim religiosity varies tremendously. One of the reasons for this is that people understand and ‘use’ religion in a variety of ways; that is true whether we are dealing with Islam or Christianity or any other religion.”[2]

As Christians have different beliefs regarding certain doctrines, Muslims have different beliefs as well. Christianity has many expressions, liberal and fundamental and various particular denominations. In this post (and in part two), we will explore the Islamic understanding of jihad and contrast it with Christianity. Our first observation is to realize the multifaceted nature of our exploration.

Many Expressions of Islam

As we have briefly seen, not all Muslims are the same and not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way. So, some Muslims emphasize the more peaceful passages (e.g. surah 5:32; 2:256; Allah is also repeatedly said to be “most gracious, most merciful”) and that the Qur’an seems to teach to not begin the fight (2:190; 22:39). However, others believe that those who have not confessed Allah and his prophet have already essentially made war with Muslims and should be subjugated.[3] Some Muslims are strict adherents to Islam and some are secular. Muslims are not homogeneous. (For example, we see two very different narrative accounts in Nabeel Qureshi’s, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Mosab Hassan Yousef’s, Son of Hamas). In fact, “not all Muslims believe that the Qurʾān is the literal and inerrant word of God, nor do all of them believe that Islam requires strict conformity to all the religious and moral precepts in the Qurʾān.”[4] We could group Muslims into three broad groups: secular Muslims, traditional Muslims, and fundamentalist Muslims.

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13 Questions to Ask about Questionable Matters (from McQuilkin’s Biblical Ethics)

The below is taken from Robertson McQuilkin’s book Biblical Ethics (512-14). I have found these general principles helpful:

  1. Is it for the Lord? Does it bring praise to him? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31). (See also Rom. 14:6-8)
  2. Can I do it in his name (on his authority, implicating him)? Can I thank him for it: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God for Father through him” (Col. 3:17)
  3. Can I take Jesus with me? Would Jesus do it? “Whiter shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7). “Christ… lives in me” should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). (See also Matt 28:19-20, John 14:16-17, 23.)
  4. Does it belong in the home of the Holy Spirit? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify god in your body” (1 Cor. 6:29-20). (See also Eph. 4:30.)
  5. Is it of faith? Do I have misgivings? “But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21).
  6. Does it positively benefit, build up (not simply, “Is it harmless?”) “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). (See also Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 10:8; Eph. 4:12-16)
  7. Does it spring from, or lead to, love of this world and its value system? “Do not love the world or the things in the world.   If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). (See also Mark 9:47; 11:14-15)
  8. Does it involve union with an unbeliever? “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)
  9. Does it come from or have the potential of leading to bondage? “All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23).
  10. Is the motive pride, or love? “We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1-2)
  11. Is a godly mind-set the context of my decision on the matter? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). (See also Rom. 12:1-2)
  12. What does the church say about it? “He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18). “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). (See also Rom. 14:16)
  13. Would I like to be doing this when Jesus comes? “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming…. We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 2:28; 3:2-3). (See also Matt. 24:44-51; Luke 23:34-35; 1 Thess. 5:2-4)

Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (a book review)

Nabeel Qureshi, once a devout Ahmadiyya Muslim, is now a Christian apologist. Qureshi holds an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University as well as an MA in religion from Duke University. So, Qureshi is qualified to write on the subject. He is personally knowledgeable not only about the academic aspects of Islam but also the relational and experiential aspects as well.
Importance of the Book
It was enlightening to see how difficult it is for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. Qureshi at one point questions whether or not Christians understood what an impact their message would have on him (p. 120). He even said, “My battle against the lordship of Jesus was an organic outgrowth of everything that defined me” (p. 172). Qureshi knew that if he decided to become a Christian he would shame his family with incredible dishonor. He was not sure if he could do that to his family after they had done so much for him (p. 252).

Hearing about Qureshi’ struggle as he thought about what it would mean to convert to Christianity was helpful. It will help me to be appropriately empathetic will discussing Christianity with Muslims. It is helpful to realize that “Muslims often risk everything to embrace the cross” (p. 253). I appreciated hearing his prayer: “O God! Give me time to mourn. More time to mourn the upcoming loss of my family, more time to mourn the life I’ve always lived” (p. 275). I also appreciated what he said about the cost of discipleship: “I had to give my life in order to receive His life. This was not some cliché. The gospel was calling me to die” (p. 278). Continue reading


The Day of the LORD and the Decisiveness of the Present Life

What we do in this current life has an eternal impact. The New Testament insists on the decisiveness of this life.[1] In the early church, the “idea that the coming judgment will be based on deeds done in this life was widespread.”[2] For example, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

All through Scripture it talks about the Day of the LORD (sg.).[3] The Bible does not talk about judgments starting at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11ff) and going from there on into eternity where people have multiple chances to repent. That’s why it says, “Behold [ἰδοὺ], now [νῦν] is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2; cf. Ps. 32:6; Is. 55:6). Acts 17:31 says God “has fixed a day [sg.] on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him [i.e. Jesus] from the dead.” Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment [sg.]” (9:27). Thus in Scripture, we do not see that people can repent after the Judgment. Actually to get the idea of repentance after the Judgment you would have to add to Scripture. Yet, listen to Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (22:18-19).

Also recall that it is those who “conquer” in space and time who can eat from the tree of life and who will not be touched by the second death (Rev. 2:7, 11). It’s the one who conquers on earth before the Final Judgment that has a “white stone” as admission to heaven (2:17). So we see in Revelation that there is a clear and decisive end to the chance that people have to repent. The one who conquers is the one “who keeps my works until the end” (v. 26). It is those who conquer on earth before the coming of the Lord Jesus that will be dressed in white garments and have their names in the book of life (3:5).

Jesus warns of the “thief that comes in the night” (e.g. Lk. 12:39-40; cf. 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Jesus is mercifully warning people to turn to Him now, before it is too late. We are exhorted to be ready and live a certain way because the way we live has, in a very real sense, an infinite impact. Many of the moral imperatives in Scripture show us the importance of our decisions here because what we do and don’t do has an eternal impact.

What we do in space and time (cf. Eccl. 12:13-14; Matt. 11:20-24; Lk. 12:48; 20:47; Rom. 2:6) and whether we believe the gospel and turn to the Lord in repentance has eternal significance. We see this truth attested throughout Scripture. For instance, Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4). “Death is coming, which will be the setting of the sun, and the end of this day; after which no work will remain, nothing to be done of any significance in order to the obtaining of the recompence of eternal significance.”[4]

We see the decisiveness of this life through Matthew 25. In the words of Augustus Hopkins Strong, Matthew 25 shows us that

All nations—all the Gentiles—are gathered before the King; and their destiny is determined, not by their conscious acceptance or rejection of the historical Savior, but by their unconscious acceptance or rejection of him in the persons of those who needed services of love… This does not square with the idea of a future probation. It rather tells us plainly that men may do things of final and decisive import in this life, even if Christ is unknown to them… The real argument against future probation is that it depreciates the present life, and denies the infinite significance that, under all conditions, essentially and inevitably belongs to the actions of a self-conscious moral being.[5]

Strong goes on to say:

In reference to man and his existence, the Scriptures speak of two and only two aiones or ages: one finite and one infinite, one limited and one endless, the latter succeeding the former…

The two aeons, or ages, known in Scripture, are mentioned together in Matt. 12:32, ‘It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (aion), nor in the world (aion) to come;’ in Mark 10:30, ‘He shall receive an hundredfold now in this time (kairos), and in the world (aion) to come, eternal life;’ in Luke 18:30, ‘He shall receive manifold more in this present time (kairos), and in the world (aion) to come, life everlasting;’ in Eph. 1:21, ‘Above every name that is named, not only in this world (aion), but also in that which is to come.’ The ‘things present and the ‘things to come,’ mentioned in Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 3:22, refer to the same two ages. These two aeons, or ages, correspond to the two durations of ‘time’ and ‘eternity,’ in the common use of these terms. The present age, or aeon, is ‘time;’ the future age, or aeon, is ‘eternity.’[6]

What we do matters. Indeed it matters forever. The Bible insists on the decisiveness of this life. 

_____________________

[1] Packer, Celebrating the Saving Work of God, 178.

[2] Allison, Historical Theology, 703.

[3] The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says the Day of the LORD

“in the OT, the future consummation of the kingdom of God and the absolute cessation of all attacks upon it (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; 34:8; Ezk. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:11; Am. 5:18; Zeph. 1:14; Zec. 14:1). It is a ‘day of visitation’ (Isa. 10:3), a day ‘of the wrath of the Lord’ (Ezk. 7:19), a ‘great day of the Lord’ (Zeph. 1:14). The entire conception in the OT is dark and foreboding.

On the other hand the NT idea is pervaded with the elements of hope and joy and victory. In the NT it is eminently the day of Christ, the day of His coming in the glory of His Father. The very conception of Him as the “Son of man” points to this day; e.g., Jn. 5:27 says that the Father ‘has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man’ (cf. Mt. 24:27, 30; Lk. 12:8). In the NT also, however, there is a dark background to the bright picture, for it still remains a ‘day of wrath’ (Rom. 2:5f.), a ‘great day’ (Rev. 6:17; Jude 6), a ‘day of God’ (2 Pet. 3:12), a ‘day of judgment’ (Mt. 10:15; 2 Pet. 3:7; Rom. 2:16)…

To the unbeliever, the NT depicts it [i.e. the day of the LORD] as a day of terror; to the believer, as a day of joy” (H.E. Dosker, “Day of the LORD,” 879).

[4] Edwards, 517.

[5] http://ref.ly/o/strongst/4779254?length=813.

[6] http://ref.ly/o/strongst/4779254?length=813.


Texts Espoused to Teach Universalism

The goal here is not to give an exhaustive commentary on each passage but merely to show that there are very viable interpretations that are faithful to the whole of Scripture and do not lead to universalism.

Is. 45:22-23

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. [23] By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”

In the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) απιστραϕητε is an imperative and means “turn around.” It has to do with changing ones beliefs and ways. It translates the Hebrew word (פָּנָה) meaning “turn” which is also in the imperative. So God here is not asking people to turn to Him, He’s commanding it. And it says that all people (from the farthest stretches of the earth) who turn to Him will be saved. But it implies that all who don’t turn to Him (in space in time before the Judgment) will not be saved. So we see precedence for “all” being saved here, that is, if any turn to the Lord from all over the earth they will be saved. Whosoever believes will be saved, Jew or Gentile. It was (in the OT and NT) an amazing thing for Paul for example that Gentiles can now be welcomed in (he called it a mystery). All the uncircumcised, the Egyptians that enslaved Israel, the Babylonians, all people that turn to the Lord (in space in time before the Judgment) will be saved. They will be saved from the terror of the Messiah’s Second Coming and the Final Destruction.

In the context, this passage would strike fear into the hearers, not comfort. This passage is saying, “repent and turn or else!” Further, v. 25 says “all the offspring of Israel shall be justified,” i.e. all those who have faith (see e.g. Rom. 2:28-29; 4:1-16; 9:6), not all without exception. “Yahweh’s speech ends with a prediction of destructive fire for those who do not submit to his reality and reign (Isa 47:14-15)… There is voluntary submission for some and involuntary submission for others.”[1]

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The Eternality of Hell

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When we interpret “forever” in English, as well as in Greek, context is king. For example, when someone gets back from the DMV and says to us, “that took forever,” what do we interpret that phrase to mean? We take a number of things into account in our interpretation. We understand that it takes a relatively long time at the DMV and we understand that people very often joke about how long it takes at the DMV. We also take into account that the person is standing in front of us saying, “that took forever” which clearly demonstrates that it did not in fact literally take forever.

The person that said “forever” was using it as an expression for “a long time.” However, if that same person said, “God is forever” we would understand that we need to interpret that “forever” differently. Why? Because context is king. And context is telling us that the referent in this case is “God,” not the DMV, and that fact changes the meaning of the word “forever.”

The Bible tells us that certain things are eternal/everlasting. For instance, God is eternal (Rev. 4:9-10), Jesus is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18), heaven is eternal (Jn. 3:16), and judgment in hell is eternal. If we say judgment in hell is not eternal then we lose grounds for saying that God, Jesus, and heaven are eternal since the same words are explicitly and very intentionally used to express the eternity of each subject under question (and the eternality of hell and heaven are even paralleled in Matthew 25:46).

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“Dear God, I want to be very rich…” (and other prayers)

Dry grass and salty lake prairie scenery

“Dear God, I want to be very rich. I would like a Benz or at least a new Honda Civic with a sweet spoiler and racing stripe…”

Do your prayers sound like that? Probably not. You might prefer a BMW.

Realistically, our prayers don’t very often sound quite like that but sometimes that is about the gist of what we pray for. Stuff, sometimes good stuff, is what occupies the majority of our prayers. I am not saying it is always bad to pray for stuff. I am not saying it is bad for us to pray that our dear Aunt Ruth will get over her cold, we should do that, please do, but we must also pray for other stuff; spiritual stuff.

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