Monday, January 21, 2008

How Jewish is Christianity?

Many have referred to Judaism as one of the world’s oldest religions that is still in practice today. This line of thought stems from the idea that the Judaism practiced over the previous twenty centuries is the same as that which was practiced in the Biblical Old Testament times. However, upon closer examination, we can see that what is commonly referred to today as “Judaism” finds its beginnings around 200 B.C.(1) Distinctly different from Christianity by virtue of the respective positions on original sin, salvation, and most specifically the deity of Jesus Christ, modern Judaism may be classified in three major branches known as Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform but the basic philosophy is shared by all three.

AW Tozer has written that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”(2) and indeed this statement proves true when examining the basic philosophy of Judaism. For the Biblical Christian, God is presented as an infinitely holy(3) and personal God(4) whose justified wrath(5) falls on condemned sinners who are lost in their state of sinfulness(6) unless drawn out of such state by the gracious act of God to reveal Himself to them(7) so that they might enjoy eternal fellowship(8) with Him by way of the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ,(9) to redeem them from their state of sinfulness and restore them to a right relationship with God the Father(10). However, the basic philosophy of Judaism does not present God or man in this same light.

“Judaism rejects the doctrine of original sin, saying that sin is an act, not a state. Thus, man has the ability to live according to the Law. If he fails, he only needs to come to God in repentance. With this view of sin, Judaism has eliminated the need for a Saviour.”(11)
Thus, although Judaism may have a reverence for the God of their making, He is not the infinitely holy God of the Bible whose wrath must be satisfied. For the Jewish people, it is not so much a requirement that the wrath of God be satisfied, but rather and adherence to the 613 commands found within the Torah that will fit them for a healthy lifestyle. “Jewish believers are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by keeping the mitzvoth (divine commandments).”(12) This belief, however, is not mere legalism, but is in fact the basic philosophy of Judaism: that the whole of life must be holy and the way to do so is by observing the commands.

The Jewish people also observe a cycle of holidays that they observe each year that help to define their “Jewishness.” Many of these holidays are derived from the Old Testament Scriptures such as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), Feast of Tabernacles (sukkos), and Passover.(13) It will depend upon the individual’s adherence to the particular branch of Judaism as to what extent these holidays are observed. Unfortunately, too many adherents to Judaism miss the great significance of the holidays which, in the Old Testament, pointed to the future coming Messiah and that all things would be filled in Him. Many Jewish people will object to becoming a Christian not so much out of a doctrinal conviction but because they feel as though “they will cease to be Jewish if they believe in Jesus and that becoming a Christian means turning one’s back on one’s people, history, and heritage.”(14) This is the essence of the basic Jewish philosophy. Being Jewish has little to do with an understanding of doctrinal principles, a confession, or a statement of faith, but for most it is an ethic, simply a way of life.

(1) Richard Robinson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, ed Dean C. Halverson (Bloomington, IN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p 122. The author adds, “It is best, however, to use the term “Judaism” to refer to the religion of the rabbis that developed from about 200 B.C. onward and crystallized following the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. In this way Christianity is not described as a daughter religion of Judaism, but more correctly as a sister: both branched out from the Old Testament faith.
(2) AW Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1961), p. 1
(3) Lev 19:2
(4) God is seen as clearly personal through His active involvement in the Creation process in Genesis 1 (not through an impersonal, hands-off approach proffered by the evolutionist), and a myriad of times throughout the Bible where God is shown to speak directly with His people and to offer aid through sovereign intervention in their time of need (see for reference Gen 3:21, 22:8, 12-14, 50:20; Ex 19:4, 20:1-2; 1 Chron 29:10-19; Dan 3:8-30, etc).
(5) God’s wrath is justified because of His infinite Holiness. Since sin is anything that is contrary to the character of God, our sin is in direct opposition to Him as the Scriptures assert “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds…” (Col 1:21).
(6) The Bible is consistent in its declaration that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23, see also Gen 6:5-6, 8:21; 1 Kin 8:46; Psa 51:5; Is 53:6; Eph 2:1-3; Col 1:21-22, 2:13-14; 1 Joh 1:8, 10. The doctrine of original sin is specifically opposed in the basic philosophy of Judaism.
(7) John 6:44 is one of the clearest representations of this idea: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
(8) John 17:3 defines “eternal life” for us: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Thus, the emphasis for eternal life is that we might know the “one and only true God” and to enjoy Him forever. The Westminster Confession declares that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
(9) Many passages throughout the Scriptures refer to Messiah as the ultimate sacrifice to pay the due penalty for sin. See for reference specifically Isa 53; and the testimony of John the Baptist who declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Joh 1:29).
(10) Especially in the Pauline epistles, man is represented as at enmity with God, hostile towards Him, but the joyous truth prevails that “He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him…” (Col 1:22) and later, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:13-14). This reconciliation made possible through Jesus Christ is what translates to the “peace of Christ” as dictated in Col 3:15.
(11) Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult: What They Teach. How to Respond to Them (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 1990), p. 79.
(12) Mark Waters, ed Encyclopedia of World Religions, Cults, and the Occult (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2006), p. 337.
(13) See chart of Jewish Holidays in Richard Robinson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, ed Dean C. Halverson (Bloomington, IN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), pp 128-129.
(14) Richard Robinson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, ed Dean C. Halverson (Bloomington, IN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p 131

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Can I Get A Motion?!?!

In The BookStore the other day I was confronted by a 3 foot tall trumpeter of theological truth.

“Can I get a new motion?!?! Can I get a new motion?? I want a new motion!!”

“A motion?” I said to myself. What could this kid possibly be requesting? I am not a parent, but I have come to understand that those who are who have this uncanny ability to decipher the hidden codes of their offspring. Call it a sixth sense, call it parental intuition, call it repetition, call it whatever. I call it weird. I decided I would do the spiritual thing and hide myself in my office from this booger as he whined his way through the store.

“Can I get a motion?!? I need a new motion?!?” He exclaimed again.

His handler eventually came to the young lad’s aid. “What do you mean, ‘a motion’” she asked. See, I’m not the only one who can’t understand child-speak.

“A motion,” he said, “one of these” as he pointed to the little 2-5 year old collections of devotions.

“Ohhh, a devotion” his elder retorted, sounding a bit relieved. I was too.

“Yeah, a motion.”

And then it hit me. This little herald had it, while I had it not. See, our devotions should always create a motion. Yes, we are called to diligently study the word of truth and to accurately divide it so that we may know what is good and pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. But if all we do is know then we have missed the point all together. I think I remember reading something that went a little like this:

“Be doers of the word” (James 1:22).

That sure sounds like a lot of motion to me. Devotion without motion is a potion for demotion. Or something like that…

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Al Mohler Signs 2-Book Deal With Moody Publishers

In case you have not been privied, Dr. Albert Mohler has signed a two-book deal with Moody Publishers. His two books are to be released some time in 2009. This comes on the heels of his new book Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth which released January 15th. Unfortunatley, little Bookstores like ours have to wait awhile until our backorders come through the tube. So, we wait.

Below is the official press release from Moody concerning the next two books. The link may only work for the next week or so...

Moody Publishers signs Book Deal with President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers is pleased to announce a two-book contract with highly-esteemed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. The first book is set to release Fall 2008, and will focus on preaching Christ in today’s postmodern culture. The second book will release in 2009 and the topic will be announced later in 2008.

Dave DeWit, Moody Publishers acquisitions editor, states, “We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with Dr. Mohler to provide these biblically-rich, practical resources which will equip the body of Christ for effective ministry. Dr. Mohler joins John MacArthur and others as a cornerstone author in our Church Life & Reference product line.”

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary-the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. Recognized by influential publications such as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals, called Dr. Mohler the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” The host of a daily live nationwide radio program on the Salem Radio Network, he also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues ( He is a frequent guest on national and international news outlets and is a popular preacher, teacher and lecturer.

Dr. Mohler is represented by the literary agency of Wolgemuth & Associates Inc. of Orlando, Florida which negotiated this deal.

Janis Backing
Publicity Manager for
Moody Publishers/Northfield Publishing
820 N. Lasalle, Chicago, IL 60610
p: 312-329-2108
f: 312-329-4246

Full release can be found here. I first learned of its release from a CBA Industry Brief, however, I was unsuccessful in locating it online.

If only Al would just call me to give me a heads up it would make things much easier. He must have lost my number...

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Day the Real She Really Said “Yes”

The day began like most other days back then. I rose early Saturday morning to the sound of, well - nothing. My two roommates were fast asleep in the comfort of their warm sleeping confines; it was too early and too cold for anyone to be consumed with yard work, and I found myself greeted with the warm sunshine coming through my front window. It was a little before 7:00 and I was aware that the warmth of the sunshine was only a guise, for it was likely no more than 40 degrees on the other side of that January window.

I delighted to wake early on the weekends, enjoy my cup (rather, cups) of java, spend time in the word, and simply enjoy the day even before it began. Somehow, life seems to make much more sense in the calm of the morning. Time seems slower, worries are a little more distant, and the freshness that welcomes us reminds us that His mercies are truly new every morning. When Kimberly and I were dating, we enjoyed capitalizing every waking moment of the day together. Therefore, early Saturday mornings, instead of me finding my way to the solitary comfort of my couch, we would rendezvous at a coffee shop, spend the morning reading together and enjoying the brew that was set before us.

This particular Saturday was no different and our agenda was set. When I arrived at our beloved O’Henry’s, I found Kimberly well engrossed in conversation with two older gentleman sitting at the table next to her. We exchanged pleasantries and then Kimberly and I retreated to another table with a little more room. With so much of the day set before us, I secretly wished that time would stand still. If for a moment, we could be lost in the essence of the succession of moments in order to laugh, converse, and live life together. It was always a thrill to run into older, wiser pilgrims who had traveled the path set before us. We would often glean a kernel of insight of experience through these encounters. This day proved to be the same, as the gentleman Kimberly and I were speaking with approached our table once again. The man the informed us of his son’s recent divorce that came as a a result of both husband and wife not focusing on the cross and seeking to honor the Lord in and above all things. I could sense the heartache that he had for his children, and by way of warning, this brother was telling these two kids to watch out, be on guard, and serve the Lord with all our hearts. It was indeed a prophetic moment. At least it was for me, Kimberly merely considered it to be an interesting interaction.

About 12:30 I spontaneously declared that we needed to leave. This was quite uncommon for me since I would likely find no qualm with wasting the entire day in our favorite coffee house, but this time, I had to go. When Kimberly asked what was the matter, I literally replied “I have to go!” Let me make sure you understand, I had “to go,” or so I told Kimberly. When confused as to why the current facilities were not worthy of my presence, I replied that this was an even number event and I needed more time to divide. (As a sidebar: our minds work in strange ways when we have an ulterior motive!) While driving down the road, I decided to call my friend Brian, who was to lead a devotion for 5th and 6th graders that morning, to “see how it went.” I was shocked to hear, “the eagle has landed, but the roommate is still home!” Oh what dreaded horror to my ears!! This eagle was now desperately endangered, quick, what do I do? “Turn here! Turn here! Turn here!” I exclaimed to Kimberly at the helm of her Honda. “I need to get some pink stuff.”

After purchasing a loaf of bread and the motherload of ice-cream I was able to create a diversion that lasted nearly twenty minutes. Pink stuff? Suddenly I was feeling better and thankfully, Kimberly was none the wiser. We meandered through the winding streets that led from that fateful Western Supermarket to her house with goods in tow. We pulled into the driveway and although I should have leaped out of the car with great joy for my eyes had seen the throne, I was calm and still. The next few moments were going to change the rest of my life forever. There are times when the providential events of our lives come to an incredible meeting place and after their crossing we are refused the chance to go back to normal. I am thankful for these crossroads and thankful of what awaited the other side of this street.

Kimberly stepped out of the car to find a mysterious plant figure growing out of her brick porch. She said “Did you put those there?” For the first time in the morning, I was to make one of the most honest statements that had come from my lips, “No, I did not put those there.” Indeed, this was the eagle which was to land thanks to our good friends Brian and Heather. The roommate had flown the coop as well and we found ourselves again in the stillness of the early afternoon. As she approached the vase to investigate the flowers she looked for the note to see who it came from (as though it really was not from me). Inside the note, Kimberly found a few little words that she had never heard me say, and apparently she did not have to audibly hear with her ears, for she knew exactly what it meant. The note simply read:

“I love you.”

I made it a point that I would not tell her all that was within my heart until this day finally dawned. “I really love being with you” was about as close as she or I ever came. After reading the note, she slowly turned back to me, not seeking an explanation, but in full knowledge of what was about to come. As I fell to one knee, I said, “I love you” and began to attempt to explain why. It has been three years since that day and I have still yet to come to an ability to express this truth. I gave her three things that Saturday afternoon: a Bible which all of our life and marriage is to be yielded in submission to, a ring to symbolize the eternal union of our bond together, and my name. I had given others a Bible and jewelry, but I had never given anyone else my name. I am still in awe that the woman I wake up to has the same name as me! I’m not sure why this amazes me the way in which is does, but in a way, it is a small reflection of the act of Christ. We have been called forth by His name (Acts 15:17), saved by His name (Acts 4:12), will bow at His name (Phil 2:10), and He has given us the name “Christians” because we are to be “Christ like ones” (Acts 11:26) and I desire to have her identified with my name with all the joy, privileges, and responsibilities that it brings.

January 15th, 2005 my life changed forever. It was 1:15 on 1/15 that the real she said “Yes.”

Kimberly, the Lord has granted more joy through you than in any other earthly relationship that I have ever formed. God is indeed a God of grace as your life is a testimony to such a profound truth. You love me with a love that is not human but divine. One that is not created, but inspired. I look to the future with a wondrous anticipation of what the Lord has in store for us. The “what” is not so much of my interest knowing that the “who” is you. When I proposed to you, I assured you that I would fail you, disappoint you, and cause you hurt and anguish. Unfortunately, this has proved true, but we are again reminded to fix our gaze on the one will never fail, disappoint, leave, nor forsake. We are to look to the Rock that is higher than I (Ps 61:2) to see His great deliverance, His great grace, and His great mercy which is indeed new every morning. Great is his faithfulness towards the children of man. I am abundantly thankful that in His great providence He has seen fit to grant me what I do not deserve. I prayed for you before I even knew your name and, thankfully, the Lord was pleased to give you my name instead.

I love you.

Happy 3-year Proposalversary.

**If you are confused as to the real she and the not-so-real she, click here

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Minister's Prayer

“A Minister’s Prayer”

O My Lord,
Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
Or merely win the esteem and affections of people;
But do the work of grace in their hearts,
Call in thy elect,
Seal and edify the regenerate ones,
And command eternal blessings on their souls.

Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;
Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,
That sees sown in weakness may be raised in power;
Cause me and those that hear me to behold thee here in the light of special faith,
And hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;

Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,
And help me to experience the power of dying love,
For thy blood is balm,
Thy presence bliss,
Thy smile heaven,
Thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.

Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry
And keep me from self-importance;
I beg pardon for my many sins,
omissions, infirmities, as a man, as a minister;
Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labours,
And on the message of salvation given;
Stay with thy people,
And may thy presence be their portion and mine.

When I preach to others let not my words be merely elegant and masterly,
My reasoning polished and refined,
My performance powerless and tasteless,
But may I exalt thee and humble sinners.
O Lord of power and grace,
All hearts are in thy hands,
All events at thy disposal,
Set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, ed Arthur Bennett, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p 338-339

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Recalling the Hope of Glory

I began reading this week, Recalling the Hope of Glory: A Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen P. Ross. As an act of providence, I had the desire to read this work by Dr. Ross when I first saw it last year, but alas, life occurred and I was prevented from doing so. This week, however, it is a required read for my Worship Leadership course at Beeson Divinity School. Dr. Ross, as professor at Beeson, has contributed greatly to the church’s understanding of worship through his influence on other staff and students. Now he has greatly contrbtured to the universal church’s understanding of worship throguh the publication of this work. If the first few chapters are any indiciation, the next 500 pages are going to challenge me to think biblically in regards to how God desires to be worshipped. Not in style or formate per se, but in spirit and in truth.


“Our attention to the Lord must not be an ordinary part of life; our worship of him should be the most momentous, urgent, and glorious activity in our lives.” (35)

“For worship to be as glorious as it should be, for it to lift people out of their mundane cares and fill them with adoration and praise, for it to be the life-changing and life-defining experience it was designed to be, it must be inspired by a vision so great and so glorious that what we call worship will be transformed from a routine gathering into a transcendent meeting with the living God. When that happens, then we will be caught up in our spirits to join the heavenly choirs of saints and angels who even now are gathered around the throne of God. Thereafter, our hearts and minds will be filled with the hope of glory so that we may truly love and serve the LORD in this life.” (39)

“It is the greatness of God that makes his grace so amazing; or to express it in terms of his grace, the way to God in the highest heaven is through the lowest contrition, for those of a contrite heart may know that God dwells with them, and they will dwell with him some day in the highest holy place.” (44)

---Dr. Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory: A Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation, (Grand rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006)

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