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Advice for the

Engaged and Confused

Wrath of the Gods Three Free Sins!

Standing Your Ground in Waves of Doubt A publication of On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.


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GENUINE MOTIVATION Young Christian Man Aug 2012, Vol. 3 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher Rob Beames, Editor Chandler Hunter with Donna Lee Schillinger, Page Design

in this issue... Foremost

Atheist Dawkins Says, “Read the Bible!� by

Kimberly M. Schluterman Editorial Support Contributors Rob Beames, Will Dole, Erik Guzman, Thomas Mollohan, Russell D. Moore Kevin Subra Except where noted, content is copyright 2012 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Genuine Motivation and www.OnMyOwnNow.com. On My Own Now Ministries, Inc. is a nonprofit organization with a 501 (c) (3) determination. Your donations aid in our mission to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults during their transition to living on their own. We welcome submissions of original or repurposed articles that are contributed without expectation of compensation. May God repay you. Visit us at www.OnMyOwnNow.com.

Kevin Subra

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Press On Easy Belief by

Will Dole

Can You Relate

Standing Your Ground in Waves of Doubt by

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Three Free Sins: A Review of Sorts Erik Guzman

On

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Engaged and Confused by

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Russell D. Moore

Cornered

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Wrath of the Gods by

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Thomas Mollohan

The Recap by

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Rob Beames

Grace

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Foremost oremost F

Atheist Dawkins Says, “Read the Bible!” by

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theist Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist and no friend of Christianity, wants people to read the King James Bible, but for different reasons than you might think. In his article entitled “Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible” (May 19, 2012), Dawkins shares three reasons to support his statement. The first two reasons (which one would find little cause to disagree with) are: • To underline the value of learning old English, including figures of speech: Dawkins refers to a section of a book which he has written, The God Delusion, the section itself being titled “Religious education as a part of literary culture.” He boldly states in this article that “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.” • To allow people to understand European history: “European history, too, is incomprehensible without an understanding of the warring factions of Christianity and the book over whose subtleties of interpretation they were so ready to slaughter and torture each other.” Dawkins then plunges into his primary point, a corrective rant of sorts, against which conservative Christianity will have much to say: • To disprove the Bible as a moral guide: Dawkins believes that encouraging people to read the Bible will cure this wrong view (“pernicious falsehood”). “I have an ulterior motive… People who do not know the Bible well have been gulled into thinking it is a good

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Kevin Subra

guide to morality. This mistaken view may have motivated the “millionaire Conservative party donors.” I have even heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would have no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.” Throughout the remainder of his article, the evolutionary biologist proceeds to share his arguments against belief in the Bible as a legitimate moral guide, and thus to disprove the legitimacy of the Bible in its entirety. His underlying argument (which is obvious) is that there is no God, and thus no God-given revelation. Dawkins makes what he considers to be observations that undermine Christian claims, observations that mere theologians are unwilling to see. He addresses all forms of Christianity, including those forms that largely deny what the Bible says anyway. This is very broad swipe and ends up being a group of confusing swings in every direction. Dawkins’ arguments can be summarized thus: (1) The Bible is not legitimate because of what it is; (2) the Bible is not legitimate because of what it says; (3) the Bible is not legitimate because of what Christians say, or say about it; (4) the Bible is not legitimate because of its core claims. Argument #1: The Bible is not legitimate because of what it is Dawkins believes he lands an instant knockout blow by simply referring to the 10 Commandments: “Do


Feature you advocate the Ten Commandments as a guide to the good life?” Dawkins falters immediately. The 10 Commandments, though moral in nature, are not given as a guide to the “good life” as he suggests. They indeed are a measure of “good,” giving a glimpse of God’s perfect standard of living. However, the Bible clearly teaches that these 10 Commandments (as representation of the entire Old Testament Law) are not given primarily as a moral guide. Instead the Bible shares that the Law (represented by these 10 Commandments) is given to show that mankind is not moral and does not measure up to God’s holy standard: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20). “Therefore the law was our tutor [to bring us] to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). In fact, the Bible is clear that no person can be “good” or “justified” by keeping the law (including the 10 Commandments). Instead, the law shows us that our only hope was to be rescued by God. And He God did make a way for us to be “saved” or rescued by allowing His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our penalty (for breaking God’s law) for us!: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is writ-

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ten, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:10-13). Argument #2: The Bible is not legitimate because of what it says Dawkins, building on this wrong premise of the Bible being a moral guide, continues to show his hand by attacking some of the 10 Commandments individually: “The first two, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ and ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,’ come from a time when the Jews still believed in the existence of many gods but had sworn fealty to only one of them, their tribal ‘jealous’ god.” This simply is not true. This view comes from liberal Christian views that would reject what the Bible says and would impose an outside view on the Scriptures which is not contained in the Scriptures. In applying this liberal evolutionary view to the Bible, Dawkins misses three important facts: 1. As revealed in the Bible, the patriarchs (progenitors of the nation Israel) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all monotheistic. They had communication interactions involving just one God, which was initiated by God Himself. 2. God is revealing Himself to the Israelites. Regardless of Israel’s history or proneness to polytheism, He is declaring what is true. 3. Israel as a nation, receiving God’s declaration, was told this: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). There was no evolving of views as implied by Dawkins (and liberal theologians). They were instantly monotheistic as a nation around the same time that the 10 Commandments are given. (The book called Deuteronomy means “second law,” and the 10 Commandments are repeated a second time in the very chapter where “the LORD is one” is declared.) Dawkins continues to hammer, in his mind, more of the 10 Commandments. He believes he undermines the veracity of the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy”) because of a harsh penalty that accompanied certain violations of that command (the death penalty). Here we need to point out that Dawkins assumes

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that no God exists, and so all these commands are conjured up by crazed men. However, the Bible declares the existence of God as the Creator of the Universe, a holy God who deserves recognition and worship as such. One cannot parse the Bible in pieces and create a context of one’s choosing—Dawkins is doing just that. As God Himself reveals in the Bible, He created all the universe, including his highest creation, the human race. These highest of creations is logically expected by God to worship Him and honor Him as its Creator in the ways He communicates. What is so hard to understand about that? Though the Sabbath penalty is a harsh one (as it was given to the nation of Israel), it made the point: God deserved His day of attention each week, per His commandment and per His design. Worship of God was no small matter, and God wanted the Israelites to understand the consequences of not doing so. It was that big of a deal. From the Fourth Commandment, Dawkins proceeds to the Fifth Commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother”). He jumps backward in time (and in the Biblical text) to where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Dawkins is convinced that this is a violation of the Sixth Commandment: “Do not kill.” Dawkins may not remember that God actually did not have Abraham kill Isaac (which then did not violate anything). To be fair, the Bible is also clear that Abraham did not know that God would prevent him from killing Isaac, but he was certain that God would raise up Isaac if he did go through with it (Hebrews 11:17-19). This may bend Dawkins the wrong way. However, God does reveal that He knows what He is doing whether we can understand it or not. God accomplished what He desired in Abraham’s life. Further, Abraham was to the point that, having been called by God, having walked with God for years, and having been given a son in his old age, he was fully confident that God could be trusted. That is the greater context of the offering of Isaac.

Dawkins further objects to the Sixth Commandment, stating that the command “do not kill” really meant, in practice, do not kill those of your own tribe. This is simply not true. Again, Dawkins assumes that God is a myth, that men made up this text, and that all killing is condemned. He errs on all counts. In the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God issued the warning of death for eating of the forbidden tree. Death is God’s justice, not man’s made-up choice. God, as the Creator of the Universe, is the One Who makes the rules based upon Who He is (His nature and character). He judges human beings and nations, and throughout the Bible, often dispenses His justice on some human beings through the hands of others. In fact, one only has to read to the ninth chapter of the Bible, Genesis 9, to see that God required men to hold other men accountable (the basis for human government). In Genesis 9:6 God commands Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” This is reflected all the way into the New Testament where the government is said not to carry the sword in vain. Government exists to protect those that obey the law and to punish those that do not (some crimes even requiring capital punishment). Therefore, “you shall not kill” in context means that you do not take matters into your own hands and murder someone. God holds the arm of justice, whether judging individuals or nations. We do not. Argument #3: The Bible is not legitimate because of what Christians say or say about it Dawkins uses [Christians] to discard [the Bible] for yet another reason. It might be good for him to exercise reason. It would only be fair (and reasonable) to acknowledge that Christians do not claim to fully understand their Maker nor all of the commands given by Him any more than scientists claim to understand all that science involves. We both accept much on faith based upon what we do understand.

One cannot parse the Bible in pieces and create a context of one's choosing...

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Feature It is fair to say that ridiculous statements and actions by Christians (of which Dawkins gives examples) may cause Bible believers to look foolish (as they often have). However, these examples no more invalidate Christianity than previously held views of a flat earth or a geo-centric universe invalidate Dawkins’ pursuit of any field of science. Further, just because some “sophisticated” theologians, as Dawkins puts it, reject what the Bible says and seek to back-pedal and avoid obvious interpretations does not mean that all Christians have abandoned what the Bible says. Argument #4: The Bible is not legitimate because of its core claims Dawkins finally jumps to several central themes of the Bible, which he wholly rejects (and which all who reject God must reject). Dawkins rejects the historical Adam (by which sin entered the world), and thus he rejects the concept of sin. Logically, then, he rejects the payment for sin by Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, which He transacted by dying on the cross for the sins of mankind. Since Dawkins rejects God, he cannot understand that God revealed this plan of rescue (salvation). Since He refuses to believe in anything supernatural, he is left with no good options, and scorns the idea of God revealing truth to mankind. Since Dawkins rejects sin, he offers no explanation for evil, but sees no reason for its resolution—he rejects the only possible source for its resolution. Maybe to Dawkins’ own surprise, the Bible is not caught off guard by this: For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21) Dawkins accurately states that the Bible is not a “moral book.” It is much more than that. It is true that the Bible is full of instructions in righteousness for those that believe in God and seek to obey Him. However, it also does not shy away from accurately recording the history of rebellious actions of those who failed to do so or refused to do so.

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The Bible claims to be the revelation of the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, who clearly and honestly presents the human race in all of its immoral and rebellious detail while declaring Himself to be the only solution to mankind’s core problem—sin. God did so by sending His only begotten Son to bear the penalty for the pathetic and helpless human race. God accomplished this in such a way that He could remain holy while receiving the justice His holiness demanded, and yet forgive the sins of those that believe in His Solution. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer the sin penalty for the world by dying on the cross that He might save those that believe in that Payment. It is not unreasonable to accept a divine Creator who has the sovereign reign of the universe, and who is holy and metes justice as He sees fit according to that holiness. He is beyond our understanding, but has communicated with us at times directly, through His prophets, through the written Word, and through His Incarnate Son. God’s communications truly make perfect sense, if you accept them at face value. We are all for people reading the Bible, even if they are encouraged to read it by enemies of the Bible. However, it is Dawkins that may need to read the Bible more, without the assumptions or explanations of men who reject it. It is then possible to gain what the Scriptures truly have to offer from our God who has everything to offer. Kevin Subra is an Iowa boy who completed his BA in Biblical Studies at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. Kevin has served as a bi-vocational pastor since 1987. He has worked in the IT field since 1996, as a software instructor, help desk, network administrator, IT manager, and now in the IT cybersecurity field. He has been married to his wife Jane since 1981. They have 15 children (with 9 still at home) whom they’ve always home-schooled. They have a growing number of grandchildren (10), and eagerly anticipate more. Besides enjoying his family, studying the Bible, and reading, he enjoys the ongoing puzzle of family genealogy. Check out his blog: Captive-Thinker, where this article was originally published.

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Press On

Easy Belief by

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ray this prayer. Ask Jesus into your heart. Accept Jesus as your Savior. Does any of this sound familiar? These are what you tell someone who wants to be a Christian, right? The vast majority of evangelical Christians would answer that question with a resounding, “yes.” Yet, none of these questions are found in the Bible. Not only are they not specifically stated in Scripture, but they even sound somewhat superstitious. They may be outright unbiblical and anti-Gospel. Allow me to explain. First, let’s be clear that simply because something is not specifically stated in Scripture does not mean that it contradicts Scripture. Indeed, an idea can be clearly taught in Scripture without being specifically mentioned. For example, the Bible does not state, “God created dinosaurs.” But we know that dinosaurs were land-dwelling animals and that God created land-dwelling creatures on the sixth

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Will Dole

day. We don’t need a specific statement to tell us this. It is an easy inference. We can also see things that are clearly taught in Scripture, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, without there being any specific wording to sum it up. So we never read, “God is a Trinitarian being;” but we can reach that conclusion, as Christians have, as evidenced by statements such as, “God is One” and “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We can see clearly that God is one being, and yet three persons, without the word “trinity” ever popping up in the Bible. We should be careful not to reject phrases or ideas, simply because they aren’t laid out in black and white in the Scriptures, but we also don’t want to embrace something simply because it is prevalently taught or accepted. Everything must be weighed against Scripture. So when we read a book on evangelism that says people need to ac-


cept Jesus so they don’t go to hell, or hear someone say that people need to ask Jesus into their heart, I wonder if maybe we’re missing something. Let’s take a look at a few familiar passages of Scripture comparing them to this easy believe-ism concept to see if we see a pattern taking shape. For example, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:16-18, 36). This is an interesting passage for a couple of reasons. First, the appeal of Jesus here is not that God has a wonderful plan to make us healthy and wealthy. He says that if we believe in Him we are given eternal life. Those who do not are condemned. Jesus didn’t come to solve all of our problems. God gave us Jesus so that His just condemnation might be removed as He becomes our propitiation (Romans 3:25) and our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). In verse 36, both the NASB and the ESV say that whoever does not obey the Son does not have life. This connects belief with action. It is not mere acceptance of Jesus as Savior or an intellectual assent that He is Who He claims to be. It requires a submission of one’s life to His commands. This makes sense because in the Great Commission Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). He continues to explain that we are to do this by, “...baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Being a disciple implies not only a public

acknowledgment of Christ’s Lordship, but also a life of learning and obeying His commands. As He tells us, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:37-40). Receiving Jesus isn’t merely to pray one time and ask Jesus to come to life in your heart. It means to trust Him and embrace Him as more valuable than parents, spouse, kids or our very life. This trust comes through faith and may not always look like it should, but salvation doesn’t come by saying a few words if we then refuse to depend on Christ for anything else. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” We see a man here who is so overjoyed at finding the treasure—the kingdom of heaven— that he is willing to give up everything else to gain it. Is the point of this parable that we have to give up everything we love in order to somehow buy our salvation? No. The point is that a heart that truly loves Jesus will be so filled with joy over knowing Him that all else seems so much less valuable. Things like work, family, money, status and power are nothing. Nothing compares to the glorious richness of knowing God. Don’t settle for a God that is easy to believe in and easier to follow. Jesus makes a hard, radical call to His followers to give Him alone their allegiance. Wide is the gate and broad the road that lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13), but that narrow road, that hard road, that single road to His kingdom is infinitely more satisfying in the end.

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Can You Relate

Standing Your Ground in Waves of Doubt by

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Thom Mollohan

urrents of popular opinion sweep about us like white-water waves swirling down a narrow ravine of everyday living. They threaten to sweep us off our feet into the wild seas of disillusionment and disappointment even while reach for more dependable things. When we finally find the rock of love and mercy that Jesus is to those who believe in Him, we discover a firm place to plant our feet—the solid rock on which we stand. But then calamities of one kind or another come and threaten to pry the fingers of faith loose; like subtle, yet pernicious erosions, these unwanted events work at weakening the confidence we once had in the words of hope which God has spoken to us. Sadly, such waves seem appealing at times and we find it all too easy to give in to their pressures and promptings. We not only allow ourselves to be carried along blindly by those streams of wild thoughts and reckless ideas but we revel in them, at least until we are finally cast upon the jagged rocks of brokenness and ruin. Regrettably, there are even those who

sometimes urge us to abandon truth while under a mask of Christian leadership. There are those who advocate from the pulpit of popularity a gospel that is not really a gospel at all, or good news that is not truly good news, but is instead, a dangerous deception. For example, one recent, popular book bearing a Christian label picks up the thread of spiritual relativism and basically tells us that much of what we read in the Bible is untrue or is, at the very least, greatly misunderstood. It asserts that there are many ways to know God, to be accepted by Him and to be subsequently ushered into eternal bliss. It asserts that there is no hell, or final judgment of any kind, since hell is not commensurate with the author’s ideas of God. These notions are not new ideas in Christianity. They just are newly raised and repackaged so as to give the appearance of being new messages for a new millennium. One defender of this particular author, a leader in what is sometimes referred to as the Emergent Church, claims that as citizens of a contemporary world, we cannot understand


what the Bible really meant so long ago. Considering its spiritual sophistication, as well as the alien nuances of the cultures and languages that existed at the time of its writing, its original intention is all but lost. Another writer advocating such ticklish teaching wonders what would happen if these things were true about the Bible. It seems to him that these cloudy ambiguities are just as correct—if not more so—than the basic tenets of orthodox Christianity we have been taught since childhood. Unfortunately, tossing around such questions into the mix of faith fails to create the new sense of wonder and awe which was the stated goal. Ultimately it robs us of the assurance that the Bible is truly trustworthy. Questions such as, “What if the Bible isn’t right about hell?” or “What if Jesus is only one way among many to God?” or “What if people can be saved after death?” only obscure the truth. While such ideas may give us momentary, yet delusional, comfort when considering the plight of a lost loved one, they eventually steal from us that same comfort by compromising the consistency of the Bible’s message. Worse yet, if we believe that the Word of God can’t be taken at face value, its overall message is rendered incoherent. Because the existence of hell has been explained away, heaven is suddenly suspect. Because it is assumed that one does not need to receive Christ in this lifetime, Jesus is put off indefinitely. Because ways to God other than Christ have been introduced, Jesus is demoted from Savior and Lord to merely teacher and friend. “In the end,” says one writer, “I don’t know. And you don’t know. Which is why we have faith.” But if we simply leave things there, we are in a quagmire of agnosticism, in which we can’t know anything for sure. In whom or in what is our faith? If there is no way to know anything, then there is no foundation for faith at all. Happily, we have been given that foundation through revelation, specifically God revealing Himself through His Word. While some may say that we cannot understand what the Bible really means when we open and read it, those with an open mind find that it proves to be straightforward after all.

Expository preaching may help to deepen our understanding of some things, but we can take Jesus’ claims about Himself at face value and learn to rest in His promises without the help of an interpreter. Some books and Bible study supplements can often help us apply what we learn from the Word of God, but what Scripture claims about the Holy One, His holy law and His righteous judgment can be taken seriously with a highly appropriate sense of urgency. Worship, religious activities and service may energize the daily application of our faith in God’s Word, but they are eternally meaningful only in response to the great price paid by Jesus’ blood for the redemption of our sins. Let us not play games with God’s grace and let us certainly not minimize the urgency of the hour. This generation is as much in dire spiritual straits as were the people of the first century who recognized their sinfulness and the inevitable consequence of their unattended condition. The Apostle Peter brought advised his contemporaries with words that remain true for us today: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:37-39). Our needs are the same as theirs were. Rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, we all need Jesus. We need the power of His cross applied to our lives which comes only through a personal response of faith resulting in repentance and obedience to His Word; and we need Christians to proclaim the freedom found only in the truth of the Gospel of Christ. We need freedom from the rough waters of doubt! Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 ½ years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables and Crimson Harvest. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@pathwaygallipolis. com.

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The Recap

Three Free Sins A Review of Sorts By Erik Guzman

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hat would we do with three free sins?

Now, you may say, “Hold on a second: That question presupposes that there is such a thing as sin and that we are accountable to pay someone for them.” Okay, so let’s suppose these two things are true. Then, what would we do if three of these were free? Before you answer, let’s make sure the rules to this game are clear. Although we would still have the possibility of suffering consequences for the three nasty things on our lists, no matter what we do, we won’t owe God jack. Regarding these three sins, the slate would be clean. They wouldn’t count against us at all. They wouldn’t even show up on Santa’s list. So now, do you want to play? I’ll go first. I’m a pretty simple guy with common vices. I think I’d get drunk, enjoy some porn and smoke a joint… not necessarily in that order. Now, you may say, “Hold on a second! That’s just not right! If you’re really going to ‘enjoy’ pornography, it’ll mostly likely lead to two sins. That makes four sins total!” I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t buy it. One without the other just isn’t worth it. Press me on this and I’ll use my second free sin on another joint or maybe give you a purple nurple. (I’m sorry, that was harsh, but I’m trying to get to a book review here and you keep interrupting.)

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Actually, let’s forget about the game with three free sins. What if, instead, Jesus gave us unlimited free sins?! We would still have to deal with cause and effect on this side of the veil, but God would never be angry at us for what we did or didn’t do with our lives. Essentially, that’s the heart of the message in Steve Brown’s new book, Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You.

At this point I need to insert a disclaimer. I’ve worked for Steve Brown for almost 15 years, but I was still asked to write a review of Three Free Sins. To me, that’s like asking Robin to review Batman’s work. What do you expect? Robin’s going to tell you his boss is the coolest and he wishes he could trade in his lame uniform for one just like Batman’s. Batman wrote the book on vigilante justice and that book gets five stars from the boy in green underwear… all day long. Even if Three Free Sins sucked, I’d use one of my free sins to lie about it because Brown signs my paycheck. However, I don’t have to lie. This book is Steve Brown at his finest. As Steve admits, he couldn’t have written this book only a few years ago. He had too much to lose then, but not today. Steve’s old. He’s done everything he set out to do, and more. He’s a successful author, broadcaster and seminary professor. Nobody is pulling Steve’s strings and nobody has any leverage on him, so he can tell it like it is. Three Free Sins is the gospel of grace with no punches pulled, but it’s more than that.


It charts a course-correction for the church. It’s a call to abandon the fruitless efforts of sin management in exchange for, as Steve puts it, “a life of radical freedom, infectious joy and surprising faithfulness to God.” In fact, Steve argues that the reason Christians are so bad is that we’re trying so hard to be good and that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, Jesus will still love them anyway. Without this focus on God’s grace and unconditional love, the church has become filthy with the grotesque sins of self-righteousness and pride while frantically scrubbing at a few select sins with the narcissistic zeal of someone with OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in case you were wondering. Three Free Sins is pure, cleansing water of gospel sanity. Not only that, it’s funny. Steve’s illustrations and crotchety attitude are sprinkled throughout, making it a delightful combination of revelry and revelation. (By the way, Steve is secretly a multi-millionaire playboy who has a jet car and a utility belt with all kinds of great gear, including shark repellant.) So, if you think God is mad at you, or you’ve been trying really hard to make God happy and you’re tired and want to give up, you must read Three Free

Sins. The infectious joy of finding out that God is already quite pleased with you will give you strength in your weakness. If you think you’ve got it all together, this book will probably just tick you off, but please read it anyway. If that’s you, hopefully there will come a day when you find out the truth about yourself and you’ll remember reading a book by that old, white heretic, Steve Brown. Maybe then you’ll be able to hear the message that all your sins are free because Jesus has already picked up the tab. Well, that’s my book review. I’ve got to go finish this spliff and wash the Batmobile. Buy a copy of Three Free Sins. Steve has a staff to pay! Erik Guzman is Executive Producer at Key Life Network and can be heard on the nationally syndicated talk show Steve Brown Etc. and as announcer for Key Life. He has a wife, three children, a BA in Mass Communication and an MBA. He’s also a drummer, 4th degree black belt in Aikido and Master of Theology student at Reformed Theological Seminary.

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On

Couch

N N the

We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and selfdestruction.

Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles? A Response

by

Russell D. Moore

A couple of months ago, I received a question

about an ethical dilemma a recently engaged woman is facing. She just found out that her spouse to-be has had “ongoing struggles with pornography.” She isn’t sure what to do, or how to make sure the issue is sufficiently addressed. Here is how I answered her. Maybe there are some answers for you as well.

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Dear Engaged and Confused, Far too many women are watching “The Notebook” or “Twilight” for indicators on what kind of man they should marry. Instead, you probably should watch “The Wolf Man.” Have you ever seen any of those old werewolf movies? You know, those in which the terrified man, dripping with sweat, chains himself in the basement and says to his friends, “Whatever you do, no matter what I say or how I beg, don’t let me out of there.” He sees the fullmoon coming and he’s taking action to protect everyone against himself. In a very real sense, that’s what the Christian life is about. We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and self-destruction. There are beings afoot in the universe who watch these points and who know how to collaborate with our biology and our environment to slaughter us. Wisdom means knowing where those weak points are, recognizing deception for what it is, and warring against ourselves in order to maintain fidelity to Christ and to those God has given us.


What worries me about your situation is not that your potential husband has a weakness for pornography, but that you are just now finding out about it. That tells me he either doesn’t see it as the marriage-engulfing horror that it is, or that he has been too paralyzed with shame. What you need is not a sinless man. You need a man deeply aware of his sin and of his potential for further sin. You need a man who can see just how capable he is of destroying himself and your family. And you need a man with the wisdom to, as Jesus put it, gouge out whatever is dragging him under to selfdestruction. This means a man who knows how to subvert himself. I’d want to know who in his life knows about the porn and how they, with him, are working to see to it that he can’t transgress without exposure. I’d want to know from him how he plans to see to it that he can’t hide this temptation from you, after the marriage. It may mean that the nature of his temptation means that you two shouldn’t have a computer in the house. It might mean that you have immediate transcription of all his Internet activity. It might be all sorts of obstacles that he’s placing in his way. The point is that, in order to love you, he must fight (Eph. 5:25; Jn. 10), and part of that fight will be against himself. Pornography is a universal temptation precisely because it does exactly what the satanic powers wish it to do. It lashes out at the Trinitarian nature of reality, a loving communion of persons, replacing it with a masturbatory Unitarianism. And pornography strikes out against the picture of Christ and his church by disrupting the one-flesh union, leaving couples like our prehistoric ancestors, hiding from one another and from God in the darkness of shame.

And pornography rages, as Satan always does, against Incarnation (1 Jn. 4:2-3), replacing flesh-to-flesh intimacy with the illusion of fleshless intimacy. There’s not a guarantee that you can keep your marriage from infidelity, either digital or carnal, but you can make sure the man you’re following into it knows the stakes, knows how to repent, and knows the meaning of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil all the way to a cross. In short, find a man who knows what his “full moon” is, what it is that drives him to vulnerability to his beastly self. Find a man who knows how to subvert himself, and how to ask others to help. You won’t find a silver bullet for all of this, but you just might find a gospel-clinging wolf man. Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics. He is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, and Tempted and Tried. A native Mississippian, he and his wife Maria live in Louisville, Kentucky, with their five sons. Read more articles by Russell Moore at his blog: Moore to the Point at http://www. russellmoore.com

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Cornered

by

Grace

Wrath of the

Gods by

Rob Beames

A

fter seeing the inevitable and long-awaited sequel to the “Clash of the Titans,” I couldn’t help but be amazed by the long-lasting love affair we have with this once great but false religion. I admit to having been intrigued by Greek mythology in my youth, but then again, who wouldn’t be drawn to such attractive characters? After all, they were created in our image. They possess incredible powers along with all the imperfections that define our humanity—a level of perfection which has an illusion of attainability. It actually seems easier to gain Greek god status than to meet the requirement of our God to be holy just as He is. It’s certainly easier to come across a magical bow or hammer than it is to fulfill the law of God. Perhaps Greek mythology dangles the same elusive quick fix before us that Adam and Eve sought when they bit into the infamous apple.

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But when the Titan daydreams are over, real power and perfection is waiting just outside the theater door. For example, we read: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20) Now, that’s power! Unlike make-believe Greek gods, our God doesn’t have to come down and get in our face, shoot lightning bolts at monsters or send people off on impossible quests to prove His power. We see that even His unseen qualities—His pure power and perfection among many—are enough to condemn all creation, proving that we just don’t compare to our God. In many ways we might aspire to be like a Greek god, but no one will ever compare to the Creator of all things. Everything we need to know about God has been laid bare from the beginning for anyone with eyes to see. Simply by observing His remarkable creation, we learn enough to be guilty if we reject Him. Yet, in His grace, He gives us even more than is required. His Word reveals to us as much as we can possibly comprehend regarding His nature. His Son became one of us to provide us with the exact representation of our Father. To this day, tornadoes exhibit His authority as they rip through the countryside leveling everything in their path, while the blasts of trumpets are heard beaconing men everywhere to repent, (Revelation 8:5). He tears the earth with slight tremors quickly escalating into mass destruction without warning; and a seal is broken in heaven begging mankind to crawl to their only hope of salvation (Revelation 6:12). We need not fear the havoc that Titans of the big screen might inflict on us, but God waits in silence holding back His fierce judgment, feeling no compulsion to prove Himself to the world. As a father might ironically fulfill his own false prophecy as he thunders, “I am in control!” so a loving parent quietly demonstrates complete power over his child with a look. Similarly, our God fondly displays His sover-

eign rule over us through His patience (2 Peter 3:9). He doesn’t need to roar or rave like an angry monster. He knows His strength will be revealed at the perfect time and He takes no delight in the consuming fire which He will then unleash. To better understand His brutal force we have to understand the magnitude of His mercy and love for those who will escape His wrath (Ephesians 1:3). Just as every action in the physical world has an equal and opposite reaction, so it is in the spiritual realm. To the very degree that God loves us, shows us mercy causing us to be His own by His will, His just wrath smolders to that same degree. To the same level of care He has used to prepare a place for us to be with Him forever, His absolute revenge on His enemies has been planned with equivalent cunning. When our God moves, He moves with full force. He withholds His passion for a time, but He holds nothing back when He acts. For all of us who have felt His deep, deep love, or His full and comprehensive pardon for wickedness, could have easily been forced to experience His annihilating fury, if not for His grace. If not for His compassion, the astounding forbearance He has been demonstrating toward us—refusing to count our sins against us—would instead become unabashed punishment, the likes of which we could not fathom. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He treats us with unbe unbelievable kindness. That realization should be humiliating…and a little scary. In His tender restraint, He watches us fail, sin and even destroy others—and His love for us doesn’t change. But we were made for so much more than that. That same zeal to eradicate all pain, sin and evil-doers from His world is the same passion which burns to see us home again in His arms. Anyone who has tasted this level of unconditional love can only respond with a similar fervor to love in return. Creation leaves us with no excuse, nor does the love shown to us as His creation. Looking for an excuse to love God? We can stay with Him a while longer and allow His incomprehensible obsession with us to motivate us without fear. A love like that does not leave us free to be indifferent. If we are apathetic in light of this, we just don’t get it yet. But we need not despair, because He promises that we will be rewarded with His overwhelmingly magnanimous presence if we don’t give up (Matthew 7:7, 8). (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)

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Genuine Motivation: Young Christian Man August 2012