Wednesday, December 24, 2008

At peace with God

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"


How often have you sung this Christmas hymn? In church it is a Christmas staple, and when I was younger we used to sing it in Christmas programs at school (when we were still allowed to sing Christmas songs and still call it Christmas instead of "the holidays"). But one line in that hymn really stands out to me, God and sinners reconciled. Christmas has become, culturally, all about the giving and receiving. We think about the babe in the manger as God's gift to the world. But I am afraid that we have lost sight of the cross because of the manger. Jesus coming in a miraculous birth to a virgin, in and of itself, accomplished very little other than fulfilling one part of the prophecy. It was at the cross where the Christ child was destined to ascend that the full reality of the gift of God to His people was realized. It was there, on the cross, where He brought peace between God and sinners.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20)


(Emphasis added)

What all of this tells me is the depths to which we once were His enemies. Our separation was so severe, the gulf so unbridgeable that peace between God and His people could only come at a terrible cost, the cost of the life of His Son. We have no peace in this life because we have no peace with God. It was an enmity that our sin has caused and it was a separation that outside of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit we are unaware of. Sure we know something is wrong in the world, but we don't realize that what is wrong with the world is not global warming, or capitalism, or war, or those people over there. What is wrong with the world is us. We were unable and unwilling to make peace with God, so God had to send His beloved Son to make peace with us. Don't buy that Total Depravity stuff? Think we are just generally good people who needed a little nudge in the right direction? Think again...

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

So we are all depraved, wicked sinners. But didn't Jesus come to bring peace? Certainly, but not the peace we usually think of.

The peace that Christ brings is not an earthly peace, a time of peace and goodwill. 2000 years of human history have proven that. There are wars, famine, hatred. The world is certainly not a peaceful place by any stretch of the imagination. So what is all of this peace talk about anyway? We read in Isaiah 9:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

We see on the glorious night that Christ was born:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14)

But yet we don't see peace in the world nor should we expect to. The peace that Christ brought is peace with His Father, a peace treaty signed in His blood.

We are cynically called to remember "The reason for the season", but the reason for the season is not the manger, it is the cross. It is not the three wise men, it is the centurion who said: "Truly this was the Son of God!". It is not the adoring shepherds, it is the crowd screaming "Crucify Him!". The reason for the season is that:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14)

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and by His stripes we are healed. That is reason to celebrate. Not for iPods or gift cards, but the eternal Word condescended to dwell among sinners who hated and rejected Him. But we also read that while we were yet sinners, He came and died for us. Celebrate that on Christmas day, celebrate that God and sinners are reconciled by the cross and because of that we have peace with God for all eternity.

Now that is deserving of a...

Merry Christmas!

6 comments:

Bot said...

Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

Baptism:

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

The Trinity:

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Theosis

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." Irenaeus wrote in the late 2nd Century: “we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods” Justin Martyr in mid 2nd Century said: “all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” Clement of Alexandria explained “Saints . . pure in heart . . are destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior.” The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: "He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him," (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) For further information on this subject, refer to http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Early Christian church leaders regarding theosis.

In the words of Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: "There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to who all others are subject". Becoming like God is not saying we will ever be equal to Him, frankly we won't and can't. He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.

The Deity of Jesus Christ

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

• The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this: "There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.) Martin Luther had similar thoughts: "Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,...unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation." He also wrote: "I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it." The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* * *

• Christ-Like Lives:

The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

. LDS . Evangelical
1. 71% . . 55%
2. 52 . . . 28
3. 76 . . . 62
4. 100 . . 95
5. 42 . . . 28
6. 68 . . . 22
7. 67 . . . 40
8. 72 . . . 56
9. 50 . . . 19
10 65 . . . 26
11 84 . . . 35

So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

Further Reading: http://jesuschrist.lds.org/SonOfGod/eng/

Arthur Sido said...

Any original thoughts? Or just copy and pasted stuff?

Mormons Are Christian said...

Arthur,

It all my original comments

Mormons Are Christian

Arthur Sido said...

Perhaps, but you have pasted this material verbatim in a number of other places. A couple of quick points, even though I have seen this exact same "comment" pasted into other blogs.

"Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians"

Nowhere in the NT do we see Christians holding or needing a priesthood, in fact the need for a human priesthood is specifically rejected in the NT especially in hebrews. The idea of mormon temple worship does not appear anywhere in the NT. The idea of a plurality of gods is specifically and vociferously rejected through the old and new testament. Exaltation is absent. Dietary codes like the word of wisdom are rejected. An ongoing need for a human prophet is rejected. New "revelation" that contradicts the apostles is declared anathema. The mormon offices of elder and deacon run contrary to the qualification laid out in the NT. The hierarchical, authoritarian nature of the mormon church is contrary to the structure of the NT church. And on and on. The mormon church is a false church teaching false and damnable doctrines. As far as this quip:

"Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind."

The cross is where the atonement occured.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:19-20)

Not the blood in Gethsemane, the blood of His cross where He fulfilled all righteousness and all prophecy. The mormon idea of the atonement is just made up by Smith and his followers.

The mormon idea of divinization runs completely contrary to the Bible. Being adopted, which is Biblical, is a far cry from becoming "exalted" as described in mormonism.

As far as apostasy, there have always been false teachers (like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc.!) The church needs to constantly be on guard for false shepherds, whether the "pope" in Rome, Joseph Smith or David Koresh. All are false prophets who are in truth ravening wolves. Correcting an error with a greater error is not a restoration!

Pointing to alledged superior behavior from mormons is hardly a proof of truth. Many cults tightly control behavior, in fact it is far easier to behave (or at least give the appearance of Christ-like living) when you live under strict, man-made codes (temple worthiness, the word of wisdom) than when you need to live your life guided by the Holy Spirit and instructed by the Word of God. I have met many fine people who are mormons. I have also met many fine people who are muslims, atheists, Christians, Jews. The outward appearance means nothing to Christ:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mat 23:27-28)

I am sure I am wasting my time typing this, but I plan to feature this as a post. Thanks for the material. I am not a pastor, and I make no money from witnessing to mormons. I witness to them and testify to you of the Christ of the Bible in fulfillment of His command to evangelize the lost, a group that counts mormons among it's number.

Mormons Are Christian said...

Have you ever considered that the number of books of the Bible was drastically reduced during the 400 to 1100 A.D period. And the books excluded were those which contained the esoteric and divinization writings.

Yes, the Bible states that all Jesus said, he said openly (even if in parables, which his disciples could better understand than non-believers). But the KJV Bible is silent about what he did during the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension.

Clement of Alexandria claimed to possess a secret tradition of knowledge (Greek gnosis) handed down from the Savior to the Apostles and on to Clement himself by way of certain of his teachers. “Clement represents this secret discipline to which he gives the title of gnosis, or gift of knowledge, as having been conferred by our Lord, after his resurrection, on James the Just, John, and Peter, by whom it was communicated to the other Apostles; and that by these the treasure was committed to the seventy disciples, of whom Barnabas was one. . . the secret discipline thus instituted by Christ was familiar to those who had been his masters and preceptors,”

In Sophia Jesu Christi: “After He had risen from the dead, when they came, the twelve disciples and seven women who had followed him as disciples, into Galilee. .. where they were now at a loss in regard to the true nature of the universe, the Plan of Salvation, the Holy Providence, the excellency of the Powers, about all that the Redeemer did with them, the secrets of the Holy Plan of Salvation, then there appeared to them the Redeemer. “

Arthur Sido said...

You can appeal to extra-Biblical sources for all sorts of stuff. Why not appeal to the Koran? I can point you to a guy in Canada who thinks he is an apostles and is adding proverbs that he thinks are scripture. He is esoteric, why not appeal to him?

The gnostic heresy is precisely what Paul is decrying in much of his writings, so appealing to someone who allegedly claimed gnosis is not a very convincing argument.

The point you seem to be missing is that the teachings of the mormon church do not expand upon the foundation teachings of Christ and the apostles but instead teach doctrines that directly contradict the teachings of the Bible. Unless you are claiming that Jesus and the apostles taught one thing and then in secret, unrecorded teachings taught something completely contrary to those teachings?

You stated that the mormon church is the true New Testament Christianity, but you cannot appeal to the New Testament to support that claim? If your claims are true, I would expect you to appeal TO the New Testament to show that mormons are New Testament Christians.

(BTW I turned on comment moderation not to censor postings, but because I don't get notification when new comments show up otherwise. Not sure why that is)