Veritas

What is Truth? – Pontias Pilate

Language is truthful, not when the meaning attached to the words by the speaker, but when the meaning intended to be produced in the mind of the particular person addressed, is in accordance with the facts. – J. Gresham Machen

The context of this statement was dealing with liberal preachers who will gladly proclaim Jesus to be God. The problem is that the liberal and the Christian have two different meanings of the word of God. The phrasology is the same, the meaning could not be more different. I think that is interesting that as we enter the political season, we will have ever candidate at one time or another talk about Jesus and how they believe He is God. Let us be wary that that might not necessarily mean Jesus is Creator and Judge of the universe.

While I think it is important to discern what people mean when they claim Jesus as God, I want to approach the subject from a different angle. I want to talk about telling the truth. All through out Scripture, we are commanded to speak the truth. Psalm 15:1-2 states,

1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart

According to David, a Christian is marked by speaking the truth. God, through the prophet Zechariah, states,

16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace 

Paul gives this exhortation to the Ephesians at 4:25,

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 

Here, the command is obviously among Christians. While this seems like a “duh” statement, it was a problem among church at Ephesus. They weren’t telling the truth to their Christian brothers and sisters. Apparently, the Colossians were having the same issue. In 3:9, Paul writes,

9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 

Paul equates lying with the old self. There are echoes of Psalm 15 here. If a Christian is one who speaks truth, then an unbeliever is one who speaks lies. Falsehood is part of the old nature. Truth is apart of the new nature.

It is plain to see that truth is commanded of Christians. So what then is truth? I think Machen got it right. Truth is truth when the words we speak convey a meaning to our audience that is in accordance with reality. IF we say something and our audience takes that word to mean something different and our intent was to deceive, we have not spoken truth. We must be careful not to use language in such a slick way to appease our audience, but at the same time, mean something entirely different. I think that it could be very easy to speak in a way that conveys a sense of truth, but in reality is an out and out lie. I have been challenged to watch my phrasing so that all my words convey truth, not just the mere appearance of truth. I challenge you to do the same.

~sdg

Is Jesus A Christian?

J. Gresham Machen asks a very provocative question in his chapter (from Christianity & Liberalism) on the divergent views of Christ. He asks if Jesus was a Christian. I have never asked myself that question. I now believe how we answer that question will shed great light on our attitudes and beliefs about who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. Before I go on, answer the question in your head. Is Jesus a Christian?

Well, what do you think? Is Jesus a Christian? If you do a quick search of religions, you’ll probably find out who founded the religion. The one who founds the religion is always pointing others to some thing that is the object of the new religion. From that object, worshipers garner their sense of purpose and maybe even a little hope. In the major religions that are practiced in our world today, none of the founders of those various religions claimed themselves to be the object of that religion. Muhammad did not claim to be Allah, only His prophet. Buddha did not claim to be god. The Hindus have many gods. Joseph Smith did not claim to be God, only his prophet. L. Ron Hubbard did not claim to be God. We can safely say that each of these founders were the first of their respective religions. The first Muslim, the first Buddhist, the first Hindu, the first Mormon, the first scientologist. So that brings me back to our question. Is Jesus a Christian? Lets deal with the two possible answers separately.

First, we could say, yes, Jesus was a Christian. On the surface, that sounds nice. I follow Jesus, if I’m a Christian, doesn’t that make Him a Christian? I believe a deeper examination will reveal a different answer. One problem Machen describes with this answer is that Jesus proclaims Himself to be the object of faith, not an example of faith. We are not called in Scripture to have faith in God like Jesus had faith in God. We are called to have faith in Jesus. Jesus is not our example of faith like Muhammad is an example of faith. For a Muslim to worship Muhammad as Allah, that is heresy. Yet we Christians worship Jesus as God. There is only one name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. It is the name of Jesus. Secondly, the problem of sin that Christianity alleviates also disallows Jesus from being a Christian. You become a Christian by admitting you need your sin problem fixed by Jesus. How can Jesus fix our sin problems if he too is admitting He needs a sin problem fixed? Since Jesus is the object of faith and the means by which we attain salvation, Jesus cannot then be a Christian. He lived a perfect life and continues to live perfectly in heaven. He has no sin problem. He came to deal with our sin problem. He transcends the movement. No other worldly religion can make this claim. Only Jesus. His otherness is what makes Christianity even possible. If he was just like us and we were to only have faith like Jesus, our faith we be utterly worthless, for we would still be dead in our sins.

What if we answer the other way. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. That sounds almost like heresy (I’m beginning to think that if it sounds like heresy to the modern church, it’s probably not heresy at all and quite sound biblical doctrine…but that’s another story). What was Jesus? We cannot deny that Jesus was a devoutly religious man. He prayed, He fasted, He went to synagogue. So what was Jesus’ religion? Machen states it is the religion of perfect sonship. Perhaps only in heaven will we ever attain to such heights. Machen talks in terms of religions. Perhaps it would be more helpful to our modern ears to talk in terms of relationship. Does Jesus relate to God like I relate to God? I hope you are giving a resounding no! Jesus is God. He relates to himself and the other members of the Godhead in a totally different way that we cannot even grasp. It is a relationship which we will never experience this side of heaven. Our sin masks it. Paul says we see dimly now, but at death, clarity of sight. So if Christianity is a relationship, between man and God, it is safe to say that Jesus was no Christian. He was something more, something deeper, something all-together mysterious. He was the final revelation of Christianity, it’s ultimate object.

I think the significance can be huge. I believe a generation of Christians grew up in a Sunday school system that taught them to be like Jesus. We are told to imitate Jesus. While a worthy goal, we can never fully attain it. We can never relate to the Father as He does. We can never attain sinlessness. All we have that resembles Jesus is imputed upon us by Jesus Himself. Perhaps we should shift our teaching. Perhaps we should teach children to have faith in Jesus, instead of teaching them to be like Him. The difference sounds subtle, but the ramifications are huge. Perhaps we’ll have less legalism plaguing the church. Perhaps there would be less Christians consumed by the guilt over their inadequacies. Perhaps the faith in Jesus would bring a revolution to the church in which many souls are brought into the Kingdom of Light.

My challenge to you is to quit trying to be like Jesus and instead have faith in Jesus. Faith that he will supply your every need. He will supply your atonement, your grace, your strength, your righteousness, your propitiation. I challenge you to embrace Jesus for all that is and wants to be for you. Don’t limit him to a mere example of acceptable piety. Embrace the freedom of the abundant life that He offers.

~sdg

Sinfully Unconscious

At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness
of sin.” – J. Gresham Machen

I was listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll and he was talking about one thing he struggled with before he became a Christian was that he really didn’t think he was that bad. Compared to everyone else, his life wasn’t that awful. He didn’t grasp or understand the depth of his wickedness. After hearing that segment and reading Machen’s chapter on God and Man (from Christianity & Liberalism), I realized that the first great obstacle to accepting Christ is pride, manifested in the belief that man is inherently good. Man is naturally unconscious to his sin. His every day life goes on, yet he is oblivious to the grievous sins mounting up against him. That unconsciousness leads to a great ignorance. Romans 10:3 states:
For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Man thinks he is righteous. He seeks to establish his own standard of righteousness and earn it. Man is so convinced of his inherent goodness that he rejects the only means by which he can be truly righteous; faith in Jesus, the Messiah. That is our world in a nutshell. Everyone thinks they are good people. If they are good, they have no need which cannot be fulfilled within themselves. Man is self-sufficient. God is irrelevant. Having a broken view of man leads to all sorts of intellectual leaps. Since it is believed that man is inherently good, man cannot sin. He is only acting out his nature and his nature is good; especially, since there is no objective truth. If there is no sin, then there is no need of a savior to redeem us from our sin. Machen spells out the logical result. He states:

Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an
idle tale. 

 

Why would man need Jesus if sin is not an issue? He has no need of Him. In the mind of man, religion is nothing more than a crutch for the perceived weak.

I think Jesus was keenly aware of this mindset. In Matthew 9:11-13, an interesting scene takes place.

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why
does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when
[Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but
those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means,’I desire mercy, and
not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Did you catch that? Jesus came for the sick and dying. Those tax collectors and sinners knew they were such. They were social outcasts. There lives were not secrets. They understood their need. That is who Jesus came to save. The Pharisees had no need for Jesus. They were “Abraham’s children.” They had a righteousness all their own, not realizing it was nothing more than menstrual rags. In order for the gospel to have any hope of taking root in a person’s life, that person must grasp, at least in part, the depth of their own wickedness. Machen goes on to say that first step in becoming a Christian is becoming aware of one’s own sin. Without that awareness, we have no need of Jesus.

So what are the implications of this truth? First, I think the church has to be careful about being “seeker sensitive.” Too many churches are afraid to reveal to people their sinfulness. They talk in meaningless platitudes and do not preach in a way that convicts of sin. Machen writes:

 

The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an
impossible task – she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. 

He goes on to say:

 

Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance and probably we
shall be no more successful than He. 

I love that! We waste our time telling people they are good. Perhaps we’d see far greater number come to faith in Jesus if we preached in a way that made them understand their need of it.

Second, I believe we ought to daily wrestle with our sinful nature. We should remind ourselves that we have a need. It is only by the daily allowance of God’s grace do we make it. We have a sin sickness and we need the Great Physician each and every day. Only then can we truly maintain the righteousness bestowed upon us. We get it daily from Jesus.

Finally, I think this should alter the way we approach sharing the gospel. I don’t think this means picking up the bullhorn and heading downtown. I think it means greater patience with our unbelieving friends as we spend time sharing Jesus with them. They will initially reject Him. They think they’re fine just the way they are. It is at this point I suggest praying like a Calvinist…that God in His great mercy might grant your friend a consciousness of their sin and thus turn to the only one who can solve their problem…Jesus. Only God the Holy Spirit can bring that awaking in a person’s life and it is our duty to pray for the light to switch on.

~sdg