Archive for the 'The World' Category

Premeditated Purity

Sound Words graphicI’m no law guru, but we all know that the punishment for murder is much more severe when the act is premeditated, or decided on beforehand. The law makes a distinction between a person who, caught up in the passion of the moment, commits a crime and one who plans every detail months in advance (cf. Num 35:10–24).

I believe that the Bible commands that our purity be premeditated. We all know it is important to be pure, and we never know when we might be caught in that one situation, that one moment of temptation where we might suffer a crushing defeat in this regard. However, even before that moment arrives, Scripture commands us to plan carefully and deliberately to be pure. Consider the words of 1 Peter 1:13–16:

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Notice the first command: “gird up the loins of your mind.” We are familiar with idea of the Ancient Near Easterner girding up the loins. He would tuck the long folds of his robe up under his belt in order to be ready for action. Here we are told to prepare our minds for action and get serious about living as obedient children of God. Life is short and Jesus Christ is coming back soon! Be prepared to be pure.

What is so important about purity? Notice the second part of Peter’s command: the mark of a believer is purity. Holiness should characterize every area of our lives. An obedient Christian life is a pure life. We are not to live like unsaved people do (and like we once did!) in lustful impurity. Rather, we are to live in holiness, just as the God who saved us is completely pure from sin.

Peter commands us to prepare our minds now so that we live holy lives. Focus on the idea of preparing to be pure. Don’t wait until you are in the middle of temptation to decide that you will be pure and holy. Decide now! Avoid places where temptation is likely. Stay away from people who you know are not interested in pleasing God or being pure. Practice premeditated purity.

April/May 2007

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Legalists and Libertines

Sound Words graphicWe typically think of the Pharisees as legalists. They are criticized for requiring strict adherence to fine details of obscure laws. They are dismissed as the “prudes” of their day. In fact, the term “Pharisee” has become a favorite smear people use to criticize anyone with a standard stricter than their own. However, a look at the biblical evidence indicates that describing the Pharisees as legalists is only half right.

There is no question that the Pharisees were legalists in that they promoted a works-based religion. However, though they were strict about some laws (particularly those of their own invention), they repeatedly “laid aside” and “rejected” the commands of God (Mark 7:8–9).

They were guilty of spiritual pride and ambition (Matt 23:5–7), thus stealing God’s glory while also neglecting the first and great commandment (Matt 22:37–38). They permitted their hearers to neglect their duties to parents (Mark 7:10–11), thus circumventing the fifth commandment. They arranged the murder of Christ (Matt 21:46; 26:3), thus breaking the sixth commandment. They were guilty of thievery (Matt 23:14, 25), thus circumventing the eighth commandment. They permitted their hearers to break their promises (Matt 23:16–22) and even sought false witnesses against Christ (Matt 26:59), thus circumventing and breaking the ninth commandment. They were guilty of lust, self-indulgence and impurity (Matt 23:25, 27), thus breaking the tenth commandment (and perhaps the seventh).

The Pharisees supplemented their legalism with a sort of license that allowed themselves and their hearers to break God’s law with impunity. They were ostensibly zealous for some aspects of the law, but they neatly explained away “the weightier matters of the law,” such as justice, mercy and faith (Matt 23:23). They were condemned by Christ not only for straining out moral gnats, but for swallowing immoral camels (Matt 23:24). In that sense, they may accurately be described as the spiritual forebears of today’s libertines who gain hearers by inventing loopholes for divine imperatives. But more importantly, they may accurately be described as the spiritual forebears of those who maximize some laws while excusing themselves from others, and we all do that! We would do well to study the Pharisees’ errors with a bit more precision—and a bit more introspection.

March 2007

The Family Tree of New Evangelicalism

feature-article.gifOne of today’s popular hobbies is genealogies. I am thankful for some godly and stalwart relatives in the generations I have known, but I am not tempted to go beyond that. If I did, I am certain I would find ancestors who were famous and more who were infamous. The only two ancestors of whom I am dead certain are Adam and Noah.

Despite my view of genealogy I recently came across a family tree I was interested in. The October 2006 issue of Christianity Today, its fiftieth anniversary issue, arrested my attention with an article titled, “Where We Are and How We Got Here.” A subtitle, emphasized in red, proclaims, “Here’s a look at the influences that shaped the movement.” The article is by Mark A. Noll, a prominent and prolific new evangelical writer. I thought, “He is going to talk about the family tree of new evangelicalism and I’m interested.”

Continue reading ‘The Family Tree of New Evangelicalism’

Grace Teaches Godliness

Sound Words graphicFew Bible words are as misunderstood as grace. Bible believers generally understand that the Christian life is begun by grace. However, many are ignorant of the fact that the Christian life continues by grace. Some promote a graceless sanctification that depends on human effort—a genuine legalism. Others teach a “grace awakening” sanctification that almost denies human effort—a sort of antinomianism. How does grace relate to Christian living? Titus 2:11–14 provides the answer.

Grace teaches godliness. Contrary to the “do-what-you-want” view, Titus 2:11–12 says that the same grace that provides salvation for all men teaches Christians to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and instead live soberly, righteously and godly—right now! The same grace that saved you, changes you. If it isn’t, you’re not saved. Grace teaches godliness. So much for antinomianism.

Grace teaches godliness. Contrary to the “do-it-yourself” view, Titus 2:11–12 also says that your Christian life is as grace-based as your Christian birth. (see Gal 3:3) Sure, you participate in your sanctification by denying what is evil and pursuing what is right, but you do so only as you are taught by grace. You need divine enablement. You need the grace that teaches godliness. So much for legalism.

The Christian life is lived in the light of Christ’s two “appearances.” He came once to save us from sin (v. 11). He will come again to vanquish sin (v. 14). With an eye on each, let’s pursue godly living—by grace.

December 2006

Showcase the Gospel

Sound Words graphicWhat do people see when they watch us? The answer to that question is important because our lives should showcase what God has done. We know this to be true, and yet it is something we need to be reminded of constantly.

Why is that? The problem is not that we are ignorant, but that over time we forget what we have learned. In Titus 3:1–8, Paul gives three reminders that will help us stay on track.

First, he reminds us about our testimony (vv. 1–2). Our attitude toward authority and other people can either be a great addition or a horrible subtraction from our spoken witness.

Second, he reminds us of our past (v. 3). Too often we are amazed at the actions of lost people and wonder how they could be so foolish. During times like that, we need to remember our own sinful past.

As we do, we will have a greater appreciation for Paul’s final reminder about our salvation (vv. 4–8). As sinful men and women, we were without hope until the mercy of God was revealed to us through Jesus Christ. What a blessing to remember what God has done for each of us! But if we are not careful we may forget these wonderful truths.

Let us be careful to meditate daily on our salvation and then live in such a way that our lives showcase the life-changing message of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

November 2006

Happy Anniversary?

feature-article.gifThis past summer my wife and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Each anniversary is a special occasion for us to celebrate another year together as a married couple. When a couple reaches their golden or 50th wedding anniversary, that’s something really special.
This month another anniversary will be celebrated, but of a different sort—for 50 years the magazine Christianity Today has been published. During this time it has served as the “voice” of new evangelicalism, opening a window into its soul. Anniversaries are supposed to be special times of celebration, but this one really provides nothing for Christ’s church to be happy about.

Continue reading ‘Happy Anniversary?’

The Christian and Alcohol

feature-article.gifFor decades, alcohol has been considered entirely “unchristian.” Christians, it was commonly assumed, were “teetotalers,” abstaining completely from drinking alcohol. Bending beneath the world’s unending parade of television commercials and billboards touting the joys and excitement of alcohol, the Christian community has become ambivalent about its relationship to alcohol in recent years. Questions that were once taken for granted are now open for discussion. What about social drinking? How much is too much? When must a person say “when”? Is there a place for alcohol in a Christian’s life?

Continue reading ‘The Christian and Alcohol’


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The OBF Visitor is the official publication of the Ohio Bible Fellowship. Feature articles from past issues of the Visitor are made available here for your use. You may read, distribute, and use this material as long as you do so in its entirety and without modification. All articles © The Ohio Bible Fellowship.

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