Friday, May 20, 2016

A Christian's Duty to Pay Taxes

When Obamacare became law in the United States in 2010, many Christians were uncomfortable with the idea of paying taxes that would support anti-Christian practices, such as abortion.  Since abortion is murder which violates the Sixth Commandment, should Christians withhold their taxes in protest?  In his Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans (written in 1835), Robert Haldane addresses the Christian's duty to pay taxes (pp. 586-587):

"The reason why the thing [paying taxes] is a matter of conscience is, because government is a Divine appointment.  Taxes are to be paid to government for its support, because God has appointed government for the good of society.
It is here [Romans 13:7] explicitly taught that taxes [or tribute] stand by the law of God on the same footing as private debts, which every man is therefore under equal obligation to discharge.  The same truth is taught by our Lord, when, on the tribute-money, bearing the image of Caesar, being presented to Him, He said, 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.'  The produce of taxes is here determined by the Lord to be the property of the government.  By the laws, too, of every country, taxes are debts, to be paid as much to the government, and even preferable in order of payment to private debts.  Christians have much reason to be thankful that they are thus, by the authority of God, freed from all responsibility respecting the application of every tax, and that this responsibility rests entirely with the government.  Were it otherwise, they would be in constant perplexity on the subject, and almost in every case unable to determine whether it was their duty to pay or to withhold payment.  They would thus be exposed every moment to be placed in opposition to the rulers, while at all times it would be actually impossible for them to live in a heathen or a Mohammedan country.

Some persons make a distinction between general and particular taxes, and refuse to pay taxes levied for particular purposes, when these purposes are believed to be bad.  But there is nothing that will render it unlawful to pay a particular or specific tax, that will not equally apply to a general tax, any part of which it is believed is to be applied to a bad use.  Why are we not accountable for the application of every part of a general tax?  Because we have no control over it, and our approbation of it when we pay it is not implied.  The same considerations exempts us from any share of responsibility respecting the sinful application of a specific tax.  If taxes are debts, then the payment of them no more implies approbation of their object, than the payment of any other debt involves approbation of the purpose to which it is applied."

Bottom line, Christians should pay all of their taxes to the government in a timely manner; it is our duty.

"For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour," (Romans 13:3-7).

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sin of "Christian" Erotica

I know that I'm coming in really, really late on this topic, but unfortunately, Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts is still influencing Christian women today.  Her book encourages a highly inappropriate, intimate experience with God.  Since there are as many internet articles supporting Voskamp's book as there are against it, it's difficult to warn sisters in Christ of the dangerous and unbiblical advice promoted in her book.  Even though it's the most prominent, intimacy with God is not the only thing wrong with Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  Bob DeWaay does a great job of addressing all of the problems: Panentheism; Romanticism; God and Time; New Age Sensibilities; A Romantic Encounter with God; Purgation, Illumination, Union: Mystical Union with God; and Sensuality.  For a more in-depth review, you can read his article here.

Just like Christian men struggle with the sin of pornography, Christian women struggle with the sin of erotic material (I'm generalizing here; both sins can affect both genders).  One sin just happens to be more socially acceptable than the other.  A man who is addicted to pornography is shamed, but a women who is addicted to erotic material has no social consequences.  As a matter of fact, many women are encouraged to read erotic books like Voskamp's.  In general, women don't experience the erotic material like men experience pornography (through their external eyes), but women experience it through fantasy (their internal eyes), or what the Bible calls vain imaginations (Rom. 1:21).  This fantasy life is fueled by books like Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts because it puts a "Christian" veneer on an ugly sin.

It is the sin of adultery for any woman, married or not, to imagine herself having an intimate encounter with another man (Exod. 20:14; Matt. 5:27-28).  Voskamp openly admits that she flies to Paris and "discovers how to make love to God."  The wording is intentionally provocative, and there are too many sensual images and terms used in this book for it to be a purely "spiritual" statement.  If you think that I am reading too much into her book, let's say that she doesn't mean the actual physical act; however, because of her word choice, the word picture generated has already been planted in the mind of the reader (consciously or subconsciously--that's the purpose of erotic material).  I watched a video with Ann Voskamp herself on Chapter 11 of her book, and she talks about being "intimate with God", that she "can caress God" and "mak[e] every moment love for Him."  Ultimately, this is the sin of adultery, and it is blaspheming God by bringing Him down to man's level and forcing our ungodly desires on Him.  "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him," (Psalm 89:7).

For those of you who promote Voskamp, or if you have friends and family that do, let's look at a few basic questions and answers to help discern why her book is not grounded upon the Bible (but upon her own experience):

  1. First, where does the Bible describe an intimate encounter with God?  Answer:  It doesn't.  The Song of Solomon is about a man and a woman, not God and a woman. If you do allegorize it, it is about Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32).
  2. Next, do you violate the Second Commandment (Exod. 20: 4-6; Deut. 4:15-16; Acts 17:29) as you experience an intimate encounter with God as describe by Ann Voskamp?  Answer:  Yes, it is a Second Commandment violation because a man has to be pictured and you're calling him God.  No one knows what God looks like, so any representation you purposely make of Him in your mind is a sin.  If you break the commandments of God, then you do not love Jesus (John 14:15).
  3. Is it biblical when the author (or anyone else for that matter) says that God talks to her outside of the Bible?  Answer:  No.  Adding to the Word of God is strictly prohibited in Rev. 22:18.  God only speaks through His Word, so anyone claiming to hear from God outside of His Word is listening to a familiar spirit (a devil), not God.
  4. Would God have such an intimate relationship with a Christian here on earth, when it's not something that will continue in heaven?  Answer:  No.  It is clear in Scripture that no one is given in marriage in heaven (Luke 21:34-38). Therefore, there is no procreation in heaven.  Again, the Church is the bride of Christ, not individual Christians.  True believers are children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
  5. Does Voskamp have any biblical basis for encouraging the erotic behavior she describes in her book?  Answer:  No, we are not allowed to use our imagination in worshiping God (Lev. 10:1-2), and as Christians, we are told to cast down our imaginations (2 Cor. 10:5).
  6. Finally, how does a man imagine his intimacy with God?  Answer:  He can't.  Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Scripture and Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed for it.  If Voskamp's book can't be used by ALL believers, then it's not good for ANY believer. A women doesn't have a deeper relationship with God just because she is a woman--THAT is not biblical.

I pray that someone finds this post helpful.  Even as Christians, it is difficult to bring down the idols in our life when we are not willing to see them. It's also difficult to admit that as silly Christian women laden with sins, we are led captive by deceivers (2 Timothy 3:6-7).  The more Christian women fight against the role that God has placed them in (Titus 2:4-5), the more they will live in her own fantasy world.  Voskamp paints a beautiful picture that Christian women can escape to because it's more appealing than the real world they live in day in and day out. 

Don't be deceived, God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7).  The vain imaginations that Christian women allow to fester in their minds day after day will negatively impact not only their real relationships with family and friends, but also their own sanctification and holiness.  Christians should think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8).

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God can change you.  If you are a Christian, then repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness.  "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us," (1 John 1:8-10).  If you are not a Christian, or you're not sure, then pick up the Bible and read because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).  Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15) that Jesus Christ died for sins of His people, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-5).  Amen.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Rom. 12:1-2).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 11 through 13

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here and Chapters 5 to 10 here.

In Chapter 11, Mr. Burroughs gives five uses or applications:
  1. "If it is so evil to walk according to the sight of men's understanding, then surely it's a vain thing to walk as they walk and to make their walk to be the rule of your walk...we must not walk according to our reason, much less according to the reason of other men...we should seek that God would open our eyes so that we may understand, and that by a principle higher than reason, so that we may walk in a safe way indeed," (p. 130).
  2. "Let men who are gifted learn to be humbled before God," (p. 130).
  3. "It's a use of special direction to those upon whom God begins at first to work the work of conversion, unto young converts...Take heed of poring too much by the eye of reason and judging things according to reason, for it will keep you off from Christ if you so must remember not to be moved by the eye of your understanding; it is a dangerous thing," (p. 131).
  4. "Further, this should rebuke those who do not even come up so high as reason.  There are many who walk in such a base and wicked course that reason would convince them to the contrary; and God will bring their reason against them one day," (p. 132).
  5. "The saints should be so far from ordering their ways according to reason, since their very sanctified knowledge is not sufficient," (p. 132).

In Chapter 12, he notes that saints can expect greater glory than they understand.  "Faith makes good to us [Christians] a greater good than we can know...saints may expect greater happiness and glory in heaven than ever they understood," (p. 135).  "Faith rises higher than sanctified reason...Our natural abilities that we have here will not be in any way helpful to us to the knowledge of God when we come to heaven," (pp. 138-139).

In Chapter 13, Mr. Burroughs shows the principles underlying his treatise that the walk of a saint on earth is the walk of faith:
  1. "A soul walks by faith when the soul walks in the way that God would have it," (p. 141).  "But when the soul comes to know God in Jesus Christ, and comes to understand the brightness of the glory of God as it shines in the face of Christ, and so comes to honor Him in the way of the Gospel, this is the scope of a Christian's walk.  This is to walk by faith," (p. 143).
  2. "The soul in walking by faith is guided by the rule that faith presents unto it...Faith shows to my soul what the rule of my way is, the rule of the new creature as it is revealed in the gospel, those gospel rules that I find in the Word that only are made known to me by revelation and faith," (p. 144),
  3. "The walk of faith is when the way of the soul is likewise by faith, that is, the way of holiness is the way of faith...You say you believe such and such truths that are revealed in the Word, but what power has your faith to cleanse you?  That's the way of faith, when it has that power in it to separate you from mixtures and base uncleanness in the workings of your heart and in the actions of your life," (p. 145).
  4. "A Christian walks by faith when faith brings strength to the soul to enable it to go on in its way...A Christian who walks by faith, when he comes to see what God requires of him, and withal finds his own inability, goes and acts out his faith upon Jesus Christ and the covenant of grace and the promises, and there draws strength to enable him to the performance of what God requires," (pp. 145-146).
  5. "A Christan walks by faith when faith brings in not only power to do what is required, but when there is any opposition, faith enable the Christian to resist opposition, to resist whatever is in the way to hinder the walk...And so faith is an anchor in the midst of storms and tempests to keep the soul from suffering shipwreck, and not only helps against opposition, but lifts it up above discouragements, and be carried through all difficulties," (pp. 146-147).
  6. "A Christian walks by faith when his great care is to go on in his duty...his main thought is to let him be where the Lord would have him be, and do what He would have him do, and commit all his ways and successes unto God," (p. 147).
  7. "A Christian walks by faith when he can satisfy his soul by what he receives by faith as really and truly as any other men can satisfy themselves in the enjoyment of any good...that satisfaction a Christian who walks by faith has in believing what is promised," (p. 147).
  8. "A Christan walks by faith when the soul can depend upon God alone for all," (p. 150).
  9. "The progress that the soul makes in the ways of godliness is by faith," (p. 150).
  10. "The constancy of enduring in a Christian course is likewise by faith," (p. 150).
  11. "A Christian walks by faith when he in his whole course walks as is becoming one who believes such glorious things as he does, when he holds forth in his life the glory and beauty of those things that he professes he believes...You Christians, when you speak of such things that you say you believe, even such things that the angels desire to pry into, do you hold forth this in your lives?  This is the walk of faith, when the walk of your lives is suitable to what you profess to believe," (pp. 150-151).

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal," (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Clinton or Trump? Why My Hope Is Not in the Political Process

Romans 13:1-5, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."
From Robert Haldane's Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans on Romans 13:1-5 (pp. 577-585):

"Every one, without exception, is, by the command of God, to be subject to the existing powers, whatever were the means by which they became possessed of the situation in which they stand...No tyrant ever seized power till God gave it him...Civil rulers, then, are the ministers of God; if so, they must be of God's own appointment.  The worst government in any country is of God, and is calculated to effect His purposes and promote His glory. Wicked rulers are necessary in God's plans to punish wicked nations.  It is not merely the form of civil government that is from God, but the governors.

If God has appointed every government that exists in the world, His people are bound to submit to every government under which their lot has been cast.  There is but one exception, and that is when anything is required contrary to the law of God.  Then duty is plain.  We are to obey God rather than men.  The people of God, then, ought to consider resistance to the government under which they live as a very awful crime--even as resistance to God Himself...If he [the Christian] obeys the laws of the country, and does the things that are good, he will have no reason to be afraid of the government.  If called to suffer for Christ's sake, he has no need to fear.

Let Christians, then, in every country, instead of joining with the enemies of its established order, be thankful for the Divine ordinance of civil government, and exert themselves to maintain obedience and peace.  It is of the utmost importance for them in every country to understand their duty to civil government.  In this way they will most effectually commend the Gospel to the world, and remove some of the most powerful obstacles to its progress.  While they show that they fear not man, where he ordains what is contrary to the commandments of God, they ought likewise to show that obedience to God, and gratitude to Him who appoints civil government for their protection, obliges them to submit to the rulers in all things temporal.

The institution of civil government is a dispensation of mercy, and its existence is so indispensable, that the moment it ceases under one form it re-establishes itself in another.  The world, ever since the fall, when the dominion of one part of the human race over another was immediately introduced, Gen. iii. 16, has been in such a state of corruption and depravity, that without the powerful obstacle presented by civil government to the selfish and malignant passions of men, it would be better to live among the beasts of the forest than in human society.

Human governments, like everything administered by men, must always be imperfect...Vengeance belongeth to God.  He hath, however, delegated this right, so far as concern the affairs of this world, to the civil magistrate, who ought to punish evil-doers...Instead, then, of submitting with reluctance, he [the Christian] ought to submit with pleasure and gratitude.  Indeed, civil government is more for the advantage of Christians than for that of others.  They need its protection more than any other class of men.  Were is not for the protection of government, Christians could not live even in the countries where there are the proudest boasts of enlargement of mind with respect to civil liberty.

It would be a hard thing indeed if God did not rule the rulers.  But the Christians have nothing to fear, when he considers that every plan and proceeding of government is overruled and directed by his God...They have peace whatever party gets into power, because they know that in everything God fulfils His purposes by them.

In the preceding five verses the Apostle makes no provision, in matters of civil submission, for any case of resistance or rebellion, under any circumstances.  He makes no exceptions, nor modifications; he discusses no hazardous cases of conscience upon emergencies not existing; but in language which none can mistake, and with an authority the commanding solemnity of which defies opposition, he proclaims to the Greek and to the Roman, to the barbarian and the civilised, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.  The powers that be are ordained of God."

God is sovereign in all matters of life, including today's political process.  Yes, I will go and vote in the November 2016 elections (my conscience may lead me to write-in a candidate or vote 3rd party), but I'm not distraught or overly concerned about who the next president to the United States will be.  He or she is not my savior; He or she is a servant of God and will be held accountable for how s/he rules this country.  I do not support the notion that the State of Texas should secede from the USA, nor should Christians leave the country in protest.  In addition, Christians should not seek to set up a theonomy, where our modern society observes the Mosaic Law.  The current political process is ordained of God, but it should not consume a Christian's life.  My focus remains on the Word of God and how that guides my role as wife and mom.  How will I react when the next president is announced?  I'll pray for all those elected and seek to lead a peaceable life.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;" (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 5 through 10

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here.

In Chapter 5, Mr. Burroughs gives an admonition to young converts: "It is common when God converts the soul at first that He encourages it by the sense of His love...but they do not have as much faith as others.  Take this caveat, you who are beginning in the ways of God and have sense.  Oh, lay up for a rainy day.  It's not the way of God to bring the saints to heaven the way of sense, no, but by the way of faith," (p. 108).

In Chapter 6, he notes 5 expressions of carnal hearts to show how they are acted by their own reason: (1) They lean to their own understanding, (2) They walk according to the imagination of their own hearts, (3) They walk according to their own counsels, (4) They walk according to their own thoughts, and (5) They are wise in their own eyes (p. 111-114).  "Therefore, reason is not that which should guide us in our way," (p. 114).

In Chapter 7, he states that "God has higher thoughts about man, to bring him to a higher happiness than reason can reach unto.  The outward sense are too low to guide a man who would live like a rational creature," (p. 115).

In Chapter 8, Mr. Burroughs shows us the corrupt principles of those who are guided by reason:
  1. "It is not good for a man to engage himself too far in any cause," (p. 117).
  2. "It is not good to cross the stream and course of the tide where I live," (p. 117).
  3. "Corrupt reason says not to venture present things for future ones, and certain things for uncertain things," (p. 118).
  4. "It's not likely that a poor, contemptible man should come to understand more than the learned rabbis and grandees of the world," (p. 118).
  5. "To be happy, poor, and persecuted are inconsistent," (p. 119).
  6. "Good meanings and performances of good duties are sufficient to make one acceptable to God," (p. 119).
  7. "The zeal and forwardness that there is in some beyond others must come from the hypocrite," (p. 119).

In Chapter 9, he gives us spiritual truths that are above the light of men's reason:
  1. "The necessity of a new birth, of regeneration," (p. 121).
  2. "The more a man prospers, if he is wicked, the more cursed he is," (p. 121).
  3. "That God should work the worst of things that befall the saints for good unto them, though it is ever so cross and ill to them, is above the light of reason," (p. 121).
  4. "The greatest riches that any man can have in the world consist in the promises [in the Word of God]," (p. 121).
  5. "All the world is vanity," (p. 122).
  6. "We must be righteous by the righteousness of another [Jesus Christ]," (p. 122).
  7. "The foundation of all happiness is self-denial and mortification," (p. 122).
  8. "There is greater evil in the least sin than there is in the greatest affliction," (p. 122).

Finally, in Chapter 10, Mr. Burroughs lists the danger of men walking by reason:
  1. "The way that God has set for your eternal life is a way that is above reason," (p. 124).
  2. "Walking according to it [reason] turns that which is an excellent thing in itself to be a mischief to you," (p. 126).
  3. "You who have weak natural parts, do not be discouraged, for perhaps if you had had greater natural parts you might never have come to the understanding of spiritual things as you have now," (p. 127)
  4. "There is further evil in it [reason]: It makes men very slight in Scriptural duties," (p. 127).
  5. "Those who go according to the principles of reason may make an outlet upon some work that God sets them about, but...they will never go through it," (p. 128).
  6. "If ever God works grace upon any, they [who rely on reason] will be more full of doubts and fears and perplexities than others are," (p. 128).

"But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.  So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels," (Psalm 81:11-12).