Archive for the ‘Law’ category

Repentance from Dead Works

April 1, 2018

depostphotos Image ID: 5379147 Copyright: Iurii

These are some of the most terrifying words in the New Testament:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

For anyone but the hardest core Calvinist, these words are enough to make one shudder. No one wants to fall away. But we often do what we know we shouldn’t. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. Though we may be born again, the old man lurks incessantly beneath the service and around every corner. The struggle is real.

Most people, however, (me included) tend to read these words out of context. As an isolated statement, we might be strongly tempted to believe these words speak to sin, especially those nagging, habitual, ingrained sins that we have a hard time overcoming. We feel as if, one day, we will sin one too many times and will have fallen away – completely lost and irredeemable!

But the context speaks to something different than the direction our mind is prone to go.

The statement in Hebrews 6 quoted above is prefaced with the following introduction:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God ….” (Hebrews 6:1)

What is the “elementary doctrine of Christ”? What are these “dead works” from which we must repent? This is the key to keep from “falling away”.

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Shadow of Things to Come

January 25, 2018

Photo by Beth Drendel

I’ve been reading through the Bible slowly from Genesis to revelation. This is something I have not done in many years. I have taken some sidetracks and rabbit hole excursions along the way, but I am still plodding forward.

It’s amazing that circumstances of life arise from time to time of which the particular passage I am reading comes to bear on those circumstances. This is the case in a poignant way in regard to a conversation I had with a very close friend recently.

We were talking about the Catholic Church and a very bad experience that someone very close to both of us had being raised by strict parents in a strict Catholic school setting. I was also raised Catholic, though my experience differed from his. I didn’t go to parochial school, and I didn’t experience the strictness of the Catholic Church like he did, though I certainly saw evidence of it.

In my friend’s case, the strictness and severity he experienced bordered on abuse. I don’t know the details, but his reactions to things religious suggests he might have some degree of PSTD as a result of his experiences.

I don’t mean to pick on the Catholic Church. I have seen the same “spirit” evident in other denominations as well. Certain Baptists and Pentecostals and people we might label “fundamentalists” or other labels have exhibited a similar spirit as the Catholics in the focus on do’s and don’ts and religious rituals practiced in front of foreboding audiences. The Westboro Baptist Church is a very extreme example of the legalism and dogmatism I am talking about.

In the context of this conversation and these thoughts, I read these words the very next day that were penned by Paul the Apostle about two millennia ago:

Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival our new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come,  but the substance is in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

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What is Our Christian Response to Immigration?

November 29, 2016

Immigration is a hot topic today. It was a major issue in the recent presidential election, and it remains front and center in the public psyche. The surprise election of Donald Trump is the inertia that keeps the discussion alive.

The public discourse reveals a country emotionally and philosophically divided over the issue of immigration. The public discourse suggests two polarized sides: one side wanting to wall out the world, and the other side wanting to open the flood gates to immigrants of all stripes.

Think about, though: are those really the two sides to this issue? Does one side really want to wall out the world, shutting off the borders to everyone? Does the other side really want to open the borders wide to anyone and everyone without limits?

Those are rhetorical questions of course. Both sides are somewhere to the center of those two positions. As Christians, though, we don’t march to the beat of popular politics. We seek to follow Jesus and aim to usher in the kingdom of God – at least that should be our aim. (more…)

Immigration: Stepping Back and Looking Forward

November 17, 2016

Immigration has been front and center in the presidential election. Much of the objection to Donald Trump has focused on his statements about immigration, like the famous wall that he claimed he will make Mexico pay for. Rhetoric makes for a good news buzz and can stir up strong emotions, but now the rhetoric is fading.

A little bit anyway.

Still, the fears of the immigrants and their families and friends in places like Aurora, Illinois,[1] and other places where large immigrant populations exist is palpable. Those fears are fueled by the Trump campaign rhetoric, which the media played up.

Now that the rhetoric of the election is fading (hopefully), the real business of planning the future is begun. Trump’s actual plans are beginning to be learned (or beginning to be determined, if you are of the cynical kind), and it appears to be deviating from the rhetoric. As the dust settles, it makes sense to take a step back to consider the way forward. (more…)

How Can God Judge Good People: the Problem

February 22, 2016

If good people do not believe in God, how can a good God send them to Hell? If God is good, as Christians claim, how can a good God judge good people? This is a perplexing question to many people.

Some of the difficulty comes from the question itself. The question assumes, as frankly most of us do, that goodness is the standard to “get into Heaven”. There certainly is good reason for that assumption. Christians are always talking about sin and morality. So, let’s take a deeper look at. Is that really what is going on?

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Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End

July 10, 2015

Chris Frayley On Rock at River Bend


“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

These familiar phrases from 1 Corinthians. 15:55 (quoting Hosea 13:14) jumped out at me as I read them again. Of course, I know that God has swallowed up death in victory through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! But, what does that really mean for us?

This statement is the tip of the iceberg, and it occurs to me that we cannot understand without remembering and contemplating “how we got here”. Therefore, we must go back to the beginning. (more…)

What about People Who Never heard of Jesus?

July 28, 2014

Dramatic Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro

One of the most asked questions about Christianity goes something like this:

If Jesus is the only way to heaven, what about the people who lived before Jesus was born?

A corollary question is: What about the people who have never had an opportunity to hear about Jesus? I am no biblical scholar, but I have wondered about these things myself. (more…)


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