CAN A SOCIETY SURVIVE WITHOUT MORALS?

Imagine playing an NFL or NBA game without rules or referees to enforce established guidelines. Imagine opposing teams having their own set of rules and each team seeking to impose their differing rules. I think all would agree you would have chaos and utter confusion if you had no prescribed guidelines.

We are living in a day and age when everyone is seeking to impose their own differing rules when it comes to morality and the result is utter confusion and chaos. Everyone is seeking to be their own referee. The thought process today is, “What difference does it make how people live? Each can embrace their own morality in regard to one’s ethical or sexual behavior. No objective morality is necessary to have an orderly society. Each person should be allowed to do what is right in their own eyes.”

Well, is it possible to have an orderly society where no adverse consequences occur without  an objective moral standard? Can society embrace behavior regardless of how morally bizarre, live without restraint, and that society expect to last? If an objective moral standard is necessary for a society to exist that is not disintegrating, whose moral standard is society to adopt?  Can a society without morals survive?

Theologians, historians, and philosophers have wrestled with answers to such questions since time began. However, there is a common thread that runs through the findings of those who have researched  why a society collapses: a society is destined for collapse when it adopts godless secularism, rejects an objective morality, and embraces unrestrained morality where each is doing what is right in their own eyes. Arnold Toynbee, the esteemed British historian (1889-1975), observed, “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder” (Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. I-VI, (London: Oxford University Press, 1947), 273).

Toynbee, known for his twelve-volume work A Study of History, examined the major civilizations in history and why they collapsed. While Toynbee analyzes many factors that results in a nation’s collapse, he observed that when finite human nature engages in moral regress, that society “condemns itself in advance by impiously pitting itself against God’s infinity,” leading to frustration and disillusionment (Toynbee, History Vol. 10, 32). He concluded that the downfall of Western Civilization will occur when it divorces itself “from its moral heritage from Christianity” (Toynbee, History, 92). He wrote, “Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.” An observation made over fifty years ago, how much truer is his statement today?

Will Durant (1885-1981), an American historian, agrees with Toynbee. He writes, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within…. There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion” (Durant, The Lessons of History, (1996), 51). Our first President, George Washington, had made the same observation, citing that religion and morality are “indispensable supports” for the survival of the nation.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-British poet, philosopher, and social critic, insightfully observed that the dominant force in creating a common bond in culture is Christianity where our societal laws are rooted, and “it is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance…all spring out of the heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for meaning… If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes” (Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, (1948), 122).

Toynbee, Durant, Eliot all agree if Christian morality is abandoned, even if one doesn’t embrace the Christian faith as true, barbarism will be the result and “no one would be happy with [barbarism]” (Eliot, 122; Durant 51, Toynbee, 92). Toynbee observed civilizations that cast-off moral restraints become involved in an “inevitable progressive defeat” (Toynbee, History, 32).

In today’s society as unrestrained morality continues to progress, society in the attempt to make behavior acceptable that the moral cultural conscience denounces as abnormal or deviant, a redefining of such behavior is undertaken to remove the stigma of embracing the abnormal as normal. Isaiah was witness to this in the culture of his day, warning “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20). Society today has redefined the immoral with euphemisms to make the behavior less offensive and acceptable. Abortion is not murder of the unborn but pro-choice; homosexuality is no longer stigmatized but is only an alternate lifestyle; adultery is not immoral but is simply an extra-marital relationship; transgenderism is no longer emotional and spiritual confusion but is simply gender fluidity, addictive gambling is only playing the odds; drug addiction and alcoholism are no longer self-destructive lifestyles but those involved are recreational users; same sex marriages are no longer seen as taboo but as adding to the mosaic of marriage relationships; explicit pornography is no longer smut but adult entertainment; and the next behavioral redefining will be pedophiles who are pushing their deviant behavior to be accepted as simply the right to express sexual love for another no matter the age. Once the slide into moral degeneration begins, the inevitable end is absolute moral chaos and eventual societal collapse. No matter what flowery words one attaches to abnormal behavior it will not prevent the words of Toynbee proving to be true, “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.”

Why America’s moral decline? Why is there a redefining of behavior that the moral culture conscience denounces in order to make the behavior acceptable? Why is America in such chaos and turmoil today? Alexander Solzhenitsyn succinctly assessed, “It is because we have forgotten God. That is why all this is happening to us” (From a speech he made in London May 10, 1983, at the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion).  The chaos we are witnessing in culture today is clearly connected to our rejection of God, the moral Law Giver. When society rejects the Moral Law Giver from whom morality is derived, then man turns to his own finite human wisdom. Again, as Toynbee summarized, “Human nature has condemned itself in advance to lose by impiously pitting itself against God’s infinity” (History, 32), and that society is delusional if it thinks the outcome will be anything other than collapse. History and the witness of Scripture proves that to be the case.

There is no question America is on the path to committing moral suicide. Can there be an orderly moral society when the Moral Law Giver is rejected? Can society survive without morals? Observation clearly says the answer to that question is “NO.” We have gradually pushed God out of the societal arena, and we are discovering what culture is like without Divine Influence. Well, the results are in and the prophet Hosea has tallied them and the findings are, “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).

Can America survive? Not on the path it is presently on. For “if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). The only answer is a sincere acknowledgment of our sin and departure from the holy Father, an embracing of the Judeo-Christian truths and morality found in the teachings and person of Jesus Christ. We need to do an about-face and, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Is. 55:6).

Toynbee’s words wisely advise, “Sooner or later, man has always had to decide whether he worships his own power or the power of God.” It is past time we made up our minds which it will be!!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CIVILITY?

The prolific writer C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves, in addressing the matter of rudeness, he poses a rhetorical question, “Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?” (Lewis, The Four Loves, 1960, 52). Lewis asked the question to make a point rather than to elicit an answer. It is assumed the question will be answered in the affirmative for civility. However, we are living in a day when it seems many would prefer barbarism to civility!

Whatever happened to civility?

Civility is word you don’t hear much anymore and even see it less being lived out. Civility means showing respect for another person’s words, actions, opinions and beliefs. It doesn’t mean we agree with the other person, but in the public arena our behavior is restrained whereby we treat the other person with respect, dignity and courteousness. There used to be a time in our nation’s history when civility was ingrained behavior in our national consciousness. Now days civility is about as rare as seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn.

That question of civility made national headlines  last week when the President delivered his State of the Union address (Feb 4). The matter of a need to return to civility was highlighted  when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to introduce the President in the way previous House Speakers introduced the Commander in Chief by saying they had the “high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.” Pelosi instead introduced the President as only “the president of the United States” leaving out the words “high privilege” and “distinct honor.” Her slight of the President was returned by the President’s slight when he ignored her outstretched hand, refusing to shake her hand. Upon the conclusion of the President’s speech, the House Speaker in a show of defiance ripped up the President’s speech as a stunned TV audience watched her disrespectful act. It is not the intention here to debate whose behavior exhibited more incivility, but both engaged in actions that can be labeled as such.

It seems we are living in a day when displaying disrespectful behavior in the public arena has become commonplace. There used to be time when people could disagree agreeably and try to find some common ground to work together. That seems to be a memory of days gone by. Too often encounters of public disagreement turn into shouting matches, talking over one another, belittling another for their views with sarcasm or mockery, or displaying facial expressions that speak louder than any words.

The wide-spread use of social media has intensified the breakdown in civility, as it has created a disconnect between people, seeing people as “things” not individuals who deserve our respect, understanding and compassion. Albert Einstein was right when he wrote over sixty years ago, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” What would Einstein say if he was living today?!?

The behavior of civility reveals one’s character,  integrity, dignity, and sense of community or brotherhood. Where there is a  loss of civility those virtues are absent, plunging society to act in a discourtesy and disrespectful manner toward one another. Sadly, the incivility we see in Washington, DC is only a reflection of what we see in society at large. Washington is only a reflection in many respects of the people who voted them in. One philosopher has pleadingly stated, “We all have to find a way to be civil to one another.” It seems, though,  incivility has become the norm not the exception.

What has caused this breakdown in civility?

It is rather apparent the disappearance of civility has coincided with the rise of godless secularism. We have rejected the very core moral values upon which civility is built. Society has disregarded the teaching of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, who commanded humanity, “to love your neighbor as yourself,” “to love God with all your heart and soul,”  “to treat others as you would like to be treated,” and to extend to one another ”forgiveness.”  When we  instead  insistently pursue our own selfish ways regardless of who it hurts or destroys, then civility will vanish quicker than David Copperfield making an elephant disappear. And that is what we see happening today. William Penn (1644-1718), founder of the colony in the Province of Pennsylvania, recognized the importance of Christian morality, stating that dismissing Christian influences “destroys courtesy, civility and kindness.” How right he was.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that we have all been created in the Image of God; therefore, we are to act with respect and civility toward one another. James asks us to ponder how we “with the tongue curse men who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:8). In a society that has lost a sense of the Divinely created value and sanctity of life,  there needs to be a return to  a recognition of seeing one another created in the Image of God, which  would once again instill in us a tongue of civility when we are considering contemptuous speech or actions. It is possible to disagree with others agreeably, but it begins in the heart; a heart that has been captured by  Divine Influence,  pointing us  beyond our selfish behavior to an understanding of  the inherent dignity and worth of all people.

We long today for a restoration of civility in public life, but it will only be restored by a return to a moral commitment to the Moral Law Giver who commands us not to degrade those who may disagree with us or even mistreat us. Civility is not avoiding wrong thinking or erroneous views or disparaging remarks, but civility is what makes constructive dialogue possible where disagreement exists. While we all have our opinions and views, constructive inroads can never be made if we are not willing to with civility listen to those with whom we disagree. Paul wrote, “Let your conversation be always full of grace seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6). Would it not be nice if we all took Paul’s advice? To do so we would see a rebirth of civility in our society.

And as C.S. Lewis stated, “Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?”

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

RESPONDING BIBLICALLY TO MALICIOUS WORDS

Every Christian leader (pastor/elder/deacon, etc.), if they serve the Lord long enough, especially in the day in which we live, will face misunderstandings, slander, and even have outright untruths told about them. Some misinformation can be cleared up easily, but every once in a while there are those who maliciously seek to destroy the reputation of a Christian leader through slander and spreading either half-truths or outright lying. How is God’s servant supposed to handle and respond to intentional slander and defamation of one’s character?

Paul in his missionary travels experienced much mistreatment, both physically and verbally. He writes to the Corinthians, who had thrown a few verbal darts at Paul, how the Christian leader is to respond when verbal attacks occur. No one relishes in verbal assualts, especially if those words are outright lying. Yet Paul writes, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (I Cor 4:12-13). There is a lot in those two verses that needs to be examined.

In verse 12 & 13 Paul speaks of being reviled, persecuted, defamed, being regarded as filth and the offscouring of all things. Let’s examine these words. “Reviled” is the Greek word λοιδορέω (loidoreō) which means “to heap abuse upon.” The word was used in I Peter 2:23 to speak of how Jesus was treated, abuse being heaped upon him. “Reviled” is in the passive voice which means it is abuse that the recipient receives, the action coming from a source outside himself.  “Persecuted” διώκω (diōkō) which means to “put one to flight, to drive away, to pursue in a hostile manner for the purpose of mistreatment or to harass.” It is also in the passive voice meaning the recipient receives mistreatment from others. “Defamed” comes from the Greek word βλασφημέω (blasphēmeō)  which means “to be evil spoken of, to smear, slander, to blaspheme.” Once again, the verb is in the passive voice; Paul was having evil words intentionally directed toward him by others. Paul says his enemies regarded him as “filth” (perikatharma) which was a word used in a variety of ways: “of waste, of the most abject and despicable men,” and was used in paganism to speak “of criminals who were maintained at the public expense, that on the outbreak of a pestilence or other calamity they might be offered as sacrifices to make expiation for the state.” Lastly, Paul says he was regarded by his enemies as “offscouring” (peripsēma) which means “what is wiped off, dirt rubbed off, the off-scrapings, scum.” The word was used to speak of a dung cart that went through the city which people brought their waste. These disparaging remarks and attitudes were continual (“until now” – v. 13).

It is clear from Paul’s writings that he and those associated with him because of their faith in Christ had been victims of malicious, cruel, and hateful character assassination. The question is, in the face of such verbal abuse and the intentional spreading of lies how is the Christian leader to respond? Our natural tendency is to go on the defense, to become angry and react aggressively against those who spew out such venomous words about us, and even retaliate and “get them back.” But if we follow the example of Paul, how are we to respond? We are to respond in three ways.

First, Paul says being “reviled, we bless.” Instead of reacting in anger, we are to “bless.” The Greek word is εὐλογέω (eulogeō), which means “to invoke a blessing upon, to ask God’s blessings upon, pronounce a blessing on.” Wow! In other words, we are to pray for them. Isn’t that what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless (the same Greek word Paul used for “bless”) them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44).

Second, Paul says, “being persecuted, we endure.” When others pursue us in a hostile manner, the Apostle says we are to endure. The Greek word for “endure” is ἀνέχω (anechō), which means “to hold oneself erect and firm against any person or thing, to sustain, to bear with endurance.” It is in the present tense which means we keep on standing firm. One’s malicious actions and words are not to persuade us to throw in the towel or to stop pressing forward for Christ. We must keep on keeping on. Is not that what Christ did, He endured in the face of the cross. The author of Hebrews tells us when you grow weary and want to retreat, think of Christ who endured unthinkable mistreatment. “For consider him that endured such mistreatment of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3).

Third, Paul says, “Being defamed, we entreat.” When evil is purposely spoken of us, Paul says we are to “entreat.” What does that mean? The Greek word for “entreat” is παρακαλέω (parakaleō), which literally means “to call to one’s side, to summon, to call for, to receive comfort, strength or consolation.” In Paul’s day the word parakaleō (entreat) had a military connotation, which painted a picture for his readers who might be undergoing verbal abuse and slander. Before a military leader sent his soldiers into the heat of battle, the captain would gather his troops together to address them. He would summon them together, come right alongside them, and exhort them, encourage them, and speak to the troops of the dangers ahead but if will they stand firm will experience the glory of victory. He would let his troops know that he would be standing with them and had their backs. That is the picturesque meaning of the word parakaleo.

What Paul is saying in the word “entreat” is that when “slander” comes we are to surround ourselves with people who like a military captain will come along side us and encourage us, pray for us and exhort us to be strong in the face of verbal assault. We are to “entreat” each other, exhorting one another that we are not to take matters into our own hands or attack back in like manner, but remember the battle is the Lords. If we spend our time rendering evil for evil we can’t be about our Father’s business. How wonderful to surround ourselves with people who will come alongside us and will encourage us to be strong and to leave the “settling” of the matter with the Lord.

Others may speak harshly of us, may speak untruths about us, Paul tells us to respond by (1) praying for them, (2) by enduring as Christ endured, and (3) by having others come along side us whereby we encourage and exhort each another. No one likes people speaking and spreading untrue rumors or remarks about them. The flesh wants to become defensive and attack back in like manner, but we must respond scripturally. When one is having half-truths being spread about them, it is in those times one needs to surround themselves with those who will “entreat” us, come along side us, and encourage us to continue being about our Father’s business. For the victory is mine, thus saith the Lord.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

RESURRECTING A DYING CHURCH

In the day and hour in which we live we see far too many churches on the verge of shutting their doors. This is a truth that is not exclusive to any one denomination. In previous blogs I have discussed the many reasons/signs of a dying church. More often than not members of a dying church seek a miracle to keep the doors open, but they expect the Lord to work a miracle divorced from any effort on their part or any new course of action being taken. We must do our part if we expect God to do His part. As an example, we find in John 11 the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. As Jesus approached the tomb where the lifeless body of his friend lay, He told those who were standing nearby to roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb. Upon their removal of the heavy stone, which no doubt took several men and some effort to do, Jesus called froth Lazarus from the grave. The men were obedient to Jesus in moving away the stone. In other words, they did what they could do…roll the stone away. Then Jesus did what they could not do, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

If a dying church desires to see a miracle from heaven, it must begin first with the members being obedient in the areas in which the Lord has commanded. The church must do what it can do, and then God will do what the members can’t do. Moving away the stones takes effort and requires arduous work. Resurrection power will not be experienced without first doing our part. If a church continues down the same path and expects a different outcome, resurrection will not occur. Positive changes that will stretch the church to go through new doors must be undertaken to see God’s resurrection power descend. Sometimes radical reconstruction and revitalization within the church must occur before His resurrection power can be witnessed and experienced.

If a dying church is to see the resurrection power of Christ do a miracle in their midst, what are some steps the congregation first must take? What are the areas in which a congregation must be obedient and do what they can do before God in His intervening power does what only He can do in putting flesh on the dry bones (Ez. 37)?  What follows are seven steps a dying church needs to undertake/consider in  order to witness the transforming, resurrection power of Christ.

First, Repent. Repentance means a change of mind, a change of direction. Repentance is confessing we have erred, realizing we need a change of mind, that there is a need to go in a different direction. Jesus commanded the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, “Repent.” Churches must come before the Lord with sincere hearts and sincerely be willing to take new direction.

Second, Relentless Prayer. Prayer must undergird all that is undertaken before a church witnesses the resurrection power of Christ. Desiring and seeking change without fervent prayer to gain wisdom concerning God’s direction and guidance will result in failure. If prayer is not the wind that pushes the sails upon the Ship, then a standstill will be the end result.

Third, Return to first Love. Often congregations will contend their church is dying because people no longer love the church. No, a lack of love for the church is not the problem…the problem is that members have left their first love, Jesus Christ. If a church expects Christ’s resurrection power to be evident in the midst of His people, there must be a falling in love with Jesus again. Reading on a consistent basis God’s Love Letter (the Bible) to us is essential in bringing about a rebirth and renewing of our first love.

Fourth, Replacing  of Leadership. One of the most common roadblocks to a dying church experiencing the resurrection power of Christ is entrenched leadership that is vehemently opposed to change and has no vison for outreach. If this is the case, the members must reconsider leadership positions, and courageously put in place new leaders (deacons, elders, SS teachers, etc) who will have a vision and are willing to change the mindset of “business as usual.” It is sad when entrenched leadership continue “business as usual” even though it is obvious their way no longer works and will result in the eventual death of the church. To replace leadership positions within a church takes courage and requires making decisions that will upset and make some unhappy, but it is better than letting the “old guard” continue to serve, who resist change and run off the people who could be beneficial to the ministry. If this is a step that must be taken, calling upon associational and denominational help in the restructure will prove prudent.

Fifth, Refocus on Purpose. A dying church is often exclusively focused inwardly as it has lost its purpose of reaching out to the lost. A church that has no active focus on evangelism, no active focus on reaching the community where it is located, will find it will eventually dry up on the vine. When there is a refocus on the purpose of reaching others with the Gospel, the resurrection power of Christ will empower the members as they go in the name of Him who instructed us to be about focusing on the Great Commission.

Sixth, Readjust Attitude. There must be a change in attitude. A change must take place from having an attitude that dwells in the past of “the way it used to be” and from having a defeatist attitude that says “we can never grow.” A readjustment in an attitude that has confidence in the power of Christ’s redeeming grace, and reliance upon the presence of the Holy Spirit, can accomplish more than was ever thought imaginable.

Seventh, Remember all is for Christ’s Glory. While the goal of a dying church is to experience rebirth and reach the lost, the goal that should transcend beyond even the church’s survival is that the church must above all else seek in all that it does to glorify and exalt the crucified and risen Christ. That is one truth that must never be lost or forgotten in the church’s mission. We must forever exalt and lift up Christ that He might draw all people unto Himself.

For a dying church to witness the resurrection power of Christ, a church must begin doing what it can do, what it should do, what it is expected to do, what Christ commanded to do, and then Christ will do what we can’t do. True, it is not easy being a part of a dying church, but when the church begins to embrace in obedience and takes seriously the Great Commission, ventures out into the unknown, makes the necessary changes within the congregation that will no longer be obstacles to growth, members will be astounded what His resurrection power will accomplish and bring to pass.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

SIGNS OF A DYING CHURCH

In a couple of weeks I will be having my annual physical. The Doctor will check me thoroughly – weight, pulse, breathing, blood pressure, cholesterol, PSA, blood flow, sugar, etc. The Doctor carefully checks me over like a mechanic inspecting an engine. If problems are detected he then suggests ways to address the problem and correct it before it becomes worse. If I ignore his advice it could inevitably bring about my early demise.

There are many people who are carrying diseases in their body they are not aware of or have ignored the warning signs, and the disease is not detected or dealt with until it is too late…and death occurs. The person was slowly dying all along but didn’t realize it. In the same respect, there are churches that are dying but the members are not paying attention to the warning signs, which if not heeded will ultimately spell the death of the church. Is it possible to diagnose if a church is sick or even worse, if it is on its deathbed?

Each local church is to function as the Body of Christ in the community where located. Like our physical bodies, which can become sick and eventually die, the local Body of Believers can become sick and if not attune to the warning signs can and will die. While statistics vary, and thankfully new church plants out number church closings, research from 34 denominations find that approximately 3,700 churches close their doors each year (Lisa Cannon Green, “Study: Thousands of Churches Closing Every Year, but There Is a Silver Lining,” Charisma News, December 9, 2015).

There are many warning signs, many symptoms of a dying church which need to be heeded. The list presented here is not exhaustive, but what follows are twelve signs of a dying church. Any congregation that sees themselves reflected in more than a few of these signs needs to take action before the death certificate is signed and the doors are shut for the final time.

First, there is more talk of the church’s past than of a future vision.  Solomon wisely stated, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Where there are no planned goals, no goals will be reached.

Second, no new leadership is being developed. Often the old guard refuses to develop new leaders for fear of losing their grip of power.

Third, evangelism or outreach is not a priority of the leaders or members. If there are no definite evangelistic plans to reach out to the lost, the congregation will continue to dwindle as members pass away.

Fourth, the congregation is mono-generational. If the members are all of the same generation and close in proximity to the same age, the inevitable is only a matter of time. A church with no youth is headed down a dead end road.

Fifth, all attempts to awake the church from the status-quo is met with resistance. Comfortable is the optimal word in a church seeking to maintain the status-quo and moving out of the church’s comfortable zone is unthinkable.

Sixth, visitors are received with lukewarmness and seen as disturbing the “family.” When a church is perceived by visitors as “clannish” and doesn’t make visitors feel welcome and at home, first-time visitor’s returning  will drop to near zero.

Seventh, when you have more funerals than new members. When adding new members cannot keep pace with the members who are passing away, one doesn’t have to be a mathematician to figure the outcome.

Eighth, when the church loses its courage to take a stand against leadership that is clearly leading the church on a self-destructive path. Sadly, there are congregations who realize the entrenched leadership is leading the church down a self-destructive path, but will not take a stand to right the ship because “we don’t want to rock the boat and we have to live in the community with them.”

Ninth, when the members are more concerned about someone dirtying the church than they are about the fact the pews are empty. Sadly, some churches would rather have a spic & span clean church than pews that are occupied. When congregations put having pristine floors and walls over the dirty shoes and fingerprints of people, the day will come when no one will dirty the carpet any longer.

Tenth, when there is no longer a burden for lost souls. While it is good and we should be prayerfully concerned about the physical health of members, when is the last time you heard someone with a deep felt burden ask for prayer for the spiritual healing of a lost soul? A church that has no burden for lost souls will cease to be a lighthouse in the community

Eleventh, reject proposals without giving them any consideration because “we have never done it that way before” or “this is the way we have always done it.” Strategies for growth are rejected even though the “same ol’ way” of doing things is no longer working.

Twelfth, when the church sees the pastor as always the problem and getting a new pastor will “fix the problem.” A dying church thinks a new pastor will have a magic wand to wave that will fix the problem, so they dismiss the pastor they have or make it so hard on him he leaves. They soon discover the next pastor doesn’t have the “fix” either.

The death of any church is a sad occurrence indeed. While there are those who contend the death of some churches can’t be avoided, I am willing to err on the side of optimism and believe the death of any church doesn’t have to be. If the “death signs” are recognized, the warning signs heeded, and the leadership and members are willing to prayerfully put forth the effort to address the issues, the church can be saved from having to permanently close the doors. When there is a return to embracing the divine purpose and mission of the church, there is a commitment to fervent prayer, a passion for the lost, and a return to making the first priority to glorify the Christ of the cross, what was once a dying church can become a healthy, vibrant church where each time the doors are opened all present can have an encounter with the living God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Lord, grant it to be so.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHEN A CHURCH CEASES TO FUNCTION AS A CHURCH

The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklésia (ἐκκλησία), which is derived from two Greek words ek-kaleo (ek, meaning from out of; and kaleo, to call.) The word ekklésia was used in secular Greek to refer to a group of persons who were organized together and meet together for a common purpose. It was a word used to speak of summoning an army to assemble; to send out a call to assemble together all the townsfolk of a city for a particular purpose; or to call together a group of tradesmen who are involved in a common trade interest.

The word ekklésia was used by Christ and adopted by the early Christians to refer to a gathered body of believers who are assembled in any one place for worship and instruction in God’s Word. While the word ekklésia is also used to describe the Church as a whole, the whole company of believers in Jesus Christ in every place and in very nation, the most common usage of “church” in Scripture refers to a local gathering of believers who have given their hearts and pledged their lives to Jesus Christ. It goes without saying the church consists of the believers gathered, not the building itself.

The function of the church is for gathered believers to be in unity in worship Christ, to disciple and equip the Christian to be a more loyal and productive disciple of Christ. Each local church is to become the Body of Christ in their community to reach the lost with the Good News of Christ’s redemptive grace. Each local church is to obediently function as an instrument and agent of Jesus Christ who commanded, “Bring them in.” Every church is to be missional.

There are numerous gathered congregations that assemble weekly who have a sign attached to their building that reads “church.” But when does the church cease to function as a church and only becomes a group of warm bodies meeting for the camaraderie and warm fellowship that exists between them? What is one to conclude when a church is no longer worshiping Christ, no longer making disciples, no longer concerned for the lost, no longer being the Body of Christ, and reaching the lost is no longer a priority?

Seven observations are considered regrading categorizing a church as no longer functioning as a church.

A church ceases to function as a church when the leadership stifles growth for fear of losing their power. This is more prevalent than one might imagine. While the leadership tells the pastor they have a desire to grow, once new people start attending those who have held leadership positions since Noah’s Ark  become fearful the “new people” will get control and they will lose their power. When this happens, the leadership will either run off the “new people” or dismiss the pastor…or both.

A church ceases to function as a church when members arrogantly look down their noses at visitors and say, “Well, they are not our kind of people.” Sadly, this is nothing but Pharisaism. Modern day Pharisees will point out that “they” are not dressed properly, they talk differently, are different in ethnicity, or have little or no money to give. After all, outsiders could intrude into the comfortable clique. One who has a Pharisaical attitude needs to examine their heart in the light of the cross. Seems the Bible teaches that Jesus died for all, not just those who are like us.

A church ceases to function as a church when there is no concern for reaching the lost and lost people are no longer a priority. When a church ceases to be missional, has no concern for evangelistic outreach and is content with the status quo, the pathway to death has begun. If there is no active outreach to the lost, no outreach to those bound for hell, and lost people are not a priority, the church is ignoring the command of Christ to go into all world and preach the Gospel. Obedience to Christ’s command begins in each church’s community. A church ceases to function as a church when it no longer is concerned about the evangelistic needs that exist in the community and its light of witness becomes nonexistent.

A church ceases to function as a church when the leadership is more concerned about having their way, than adhering to Biblical mandates and principles. Christ is to be the Head, not an ignored Guest. If leadership is more concerned about their will than doing God’s will, if leadership is more concerned about doing things their way regardless of what the Bible says, then that church has ceased to function as the Body of Christ. When Scripture ceases to be the guide upon which church decisions are made, then that group of people are no longer functioning as a church of Jesus Christ.

A church ceases to function as a church when open sin is tolerated, accepted, and outrage is expressed if anyone opposes unbiblical behavior and lifestyles. This is becoming all too common as more and more “churches” succumb to the worlds thinking of “happiness instead of holiness.” Christ didn’t die on the cross to save us in our sin, but to deliver us from our sin. Christ came to make us new creatures, to be pursuing holiness. A church that tolerates and accepts willful and habitual sinful behavior and lifestyles to appease the world, has ceased to be the church and is powerless to change a life.

A church ceases to function as a church when the actions undertaken don’t uphold God’s glory as supreme. When decisions are made that does not first ask, “Is what we are about to do gonna bring glory to the name of Christ?” and instead the chief consideration is that the few in leadership successfully push through their agenda even if it is a determent to the rest of the members, then that church has ceased to function as a Body and the Light of His witness is greatly diminished.

A church ceases to function as a church when a premium is placed more on human wisdom in making decisions than the priority of prayer. When a church neglects prayer as the foundation of decisions and the wisdom of man is elevated over prayer and the wisdom of the Word, then where is that “church” any different from any secular business? A church where prayer is not the priority and God’s wisdom earnestly sought, it is no longer functioning as living organism but only as an organization. Where there is no prayer that church will function in the natural not the supernatural.

Many will contend the seven categorizations are rather harsh, but after over forty years in the ministry, observation indicates only the tip of the iceberg has been addressed as to the ways many churches have ceased to function as a church. It is not the intention of this writer to be harsh without purpose, but to reprove and exhort churches to live out being  the church in their community; to exhort church leaders and members to seek above all else to glorify Christ and lift up the cross. It is only when the Church uplifts the cross, the Church’s true magnetic North, that men and women can be drawn unto the saving grace that has been provided in Christ. The world has witnessed way too many churches who have ceased to function as a church. O, how the world needs to see a church which will function as a unified Body fleshing out the Christian life in such a way that results in others saying, “They have been with Jesus.”

O Father, grant it to be so.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

 

DON’T BE OVERCOME, BE AN OVERCOMER

In First John the Beloved Apostle writes to his readers that they have “overcome the wicked one” (I John 2:13, 14). He proclaims that Christians are overcomers! What did John mean when he used the word “overcome”? The Greek verb “nikao” (νικάω) is packed with abundant meaning. “Nikao” was a favorite word of John, the Apostle using it once in the Gospel of John, six times in First John, and seventeen times in Revelation. The word denotes “a victor, a champion, a conqueror, one who subdues another, a winner.”  The verb “nikao” was used in a variety of ways. It was used to describe an athlete who had gained the mastery over all competitors in his sport and was a champion. The word was used to refer to a military victory of one foe over the other. It was a most picturesque word painting on the canvas of one’s mind of a triumphant general standing on the neck of the one he had conquered as a sign of victory.

So, the Greek verb nikao was used athletically and militarily to depict the absolute crushing of a competitor or an enemy. Wrapped up in the word “nikao,” translated in our English Bible as “overcome,” are the words “to conquer, to prevail, to subdue, to defeat, to master, to overcome, to overwhelm, to surpass, or to be victorious.”

It must also be noted that in First John 2:13,14 the word translated “overcome” in the Greek is in the perfect tense. The perfect tense describes an action which has been completed in the past but continues to have an ongoing effect in the present and will continue to have an effect into the future. In other words, John is speaking of a continuous and ongoing victory. Where does this ongoing victory come from? How is it possible to have this kind of victory?

Our victory lies in abiding in our Great Commander, Jesus Christ, who conquered sin, the devil and death! John uses the word “abide” twenty-three times in his five-chapter epistle. The word abide, from the Greek word “meno” (μένω), denotes “to stay, to dwell, to remain, to abide.” It denotes to continue dwelling, remaining, staying where you are and not wandering off. In John 15:4 Jesus says we are to abide in Him like a branch abides in the vine. Abide pictures a close, intimate relationship and emphasizes the need on our part of maintaining continual fellowship with the One who has overcome all foes (I John 2:6, 24, 27, 3:6).

In First John 4:4 we are told we are overcomers “because greater is [Christ] that is in you, than he that is in the world.” It is as we abide in Him we experience the victory He won for us when He was tempted in all points as we are but yet without sin. It is as we abide in Him that we experience the victory He won for us on Calvary’s Hill when He bore the sins of humanity. It as we abide in Him that we experience the victory He won for us when He came out of the sealed tomb. In Christ we don’t fight for victory, our Christian life is lived from the position of victory. And the victory Christ won in the past continues to have an ongoing effect in our lives today and every day.

Christ used the word “overcome” when He spoke to all seven churches in the book of Revelation. They were all called to be overcomers (see Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21). He calls us to be overcomers, living our Christian lives from the position of victory which He won on our behalf. Jesus calls us to be overcomers because He was an Overcomer. In Christ is found all we need to be overcomers in this life. He has supplied us with His Holy Spirit, His Word, fellowship with other believers, prayer, worship, and placed in our hearts the assurance of eternal life. As we abide in Him (John 15) we experience His victory, which is our victory, too. Again, in Christ we don’t fight for victory, our Christian life is lived from the position of victory. As Christians we are to abide in the victory which has already been won for us in Christ.

This ol’ world is a battleground, not a playground and we face battles from the “wicked one” in life. Let us maintain the attitude of the athlete who faces his competitors with the confidence of victory. Let us maintain the attitude of the general who goes into battle with the confidence of victory being the only outcome.

Yes, the “wicked one” may come against us, circumstances may sometimes be contrary to us, but in Christ we are overcomers. In Christ the victory has already been won whereby we too can enter into that victory which He has provided for us in Himself. Don’t be overcome, be an overcomer!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHEN GOD BECAME A MAN

There would be no Christmas without Christ. Christmas without Christ is only a festive feel-good time that has no eternal or impactful significance. That Christ was born is a historical reality. While His birth is confirmed by writings even outside Scriptural references, the Scripture is our best source for discovering who this Jesus is and why His birth is so celebrated. Matthew, writing with the Jewish reader in mind, beautifully paints Jesus as the King of the Jews, the One that has legal right the throne of David and who even commands from afar Wise Men from the East to come and worship He who  is born King of the Jews. Luke, writing with the Gentile reader in mind, vividly paints Jesus as the Son of Man, the Perfect Man, the Man for all men, and descending from Adam came to do what Adam could not do. As the Second Adam He came to live a perfect life, defeat temptation and be victorious over the Foe who defeated the first Adam. Mark, writing with the Roman reader in mind, humbly portrays Christ as the Servant of God. Mark doesn’t focus on the birth of Christ, but focuses on His deeds. With almost half the Roman Empire being slaves the genealogy and birth of a servant was unimportant in the Roman mind only one’s deeds, and Christ had plenty of them!

Ah, but John….He traces Jesus’ genealogy and birth not from Adam, Abraham, or David, but He goes all the way back to the beginning….not just the beginning of time but before time….he reaches back into eternity! So much is packed into John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

These verses proclaim that Christmas is about when God became a man.
It is clear by “the Word” in John 1:1-3 the Apostle is speaking of Christ. The Greek word for “Word” is Logos, meaning that through Christ God has spoken, He has declared Himself, He has expressed Himself to humanity. Jesus is the incarnate Logos, the incarnate Word. Notice what John says about this Babe whose cry broke the silence of the Bethlehem night.

First, Christ is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word” (Jh 1:1). Christ was always with God. There never was a time when the Word (Christ) was not.

Second, Christ is equal to God. “The Word was with God” (Jh 1:1). The word “with” means face to face with God. This speaks of equality and intimacy. Christ was not lesser than God, but equal with God.

Third, Christ was God. “The Word was God” (Jh 1:1). Christ is eternally God, is equal with God and is God Himself. Christ is the fullness of God, the state of being God (Col. 2:9). As the Logos, Christ Jesus is God in self-revelation and redemption.

Fourth, Christ is the Creator. “All things were created by Him” (Jh 1:3). The Word in John 1:1-3 is the One of Genesis 1 who spoke by His Word all things into existence. The Word (Christ) created the universe, and at Bethlehem He came to visit the earth which He had created.

In 1:14 John reveals a profound truth. He writes that the Word who is eternal, is equal to God, who was God, and who created all things, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

WOW!

We catch our breath at such a declaration. We are astonished at John’s pronouncement. We scratch our heads at its mystery and profoundness. We in stunned silence seek to grasp John’s words. What? Our God became flesh and dwelt among us….can it be? Yes, that is the profoundness, yet the simplicity of Christmas…the Babe found in the stable’s manger in Bethlehem was our God who had come to dwell among us. That is the wonder of Christmas. Christmas is about when God became a man.

A Greek philosopher once stated that if God was to ever make an impact upon earth, He would have to become a man. Well, in Christ God became flesh, full of grace and truth, and has dwelt among us. Because of our sinfulness we could never go to where He is, but in His holy-grace He clothed Himself in human flesh to come to where we are. The Creator became a man to do for us what we could never do for ourselves, to provide a perfect Sacrifice for our sins. As He hung upon the cross with His arms outstretched, in His loving grace He bid men to come and be embraced by His long arms of salvation. And those arms of sacrificial grace are sufficient to amass unto Himself all who will come unto Him.

As the shepherds hurried in the darkness of the night to see the Baby Jesus, their eyes were privileged to gaze upon Him who was the Light of the world and who had come to chase away the darkness in our lives. He who lay beneath the twinkling stars had created the stars. The powerful truths behind the words of John leave us in awe and drives us to our knees in worship. And as we gather around the cradle at Christmastime, we do so cognizant of the truth that the coming of Christ in history is the coming of God the Redeemer. In His coming He offered a Sacrifice rent from His very own heart. The Sacrifice was made to God by Himself in His Son, and it was made to His own holy nature on behalf of you and me.

Yes, Christmas is truly a time to celebrate, for our God became flesh and dwelt among us!!

Merry Christmas,
Dr. Dan

ONE NAME WOULD NOT DO

As we celebrate the Christmas season, time pauses for a brief moment when even people who don’t profess to be followers of the Babe born in Bethlehem are confronted with the name Jesus. O, the name Jesus. It is the name that has been endeared by millions and through history has commanded the attention of nations, felled many an army, toppled countless rulers, baffled philosophers, perplexed sceptics, captured the imagination of artists, struck the cords of music in the hearts of composers, moved the pen of writers, and held in reverence by those who worship Him. Yes indeed, there is something about that name.

When the angel Gabriel appeared unto Mary that she had been chosen to bear the promised Christ Child, the angel informed Mary, and later informed her betrothed husband Joseph, they “shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

As one reads through the Bible one truth is abundantly clear, Jesus was given many names which describe the character of the One whom we sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there is just something about that name.” Shakespeare posed the question, “What’s in a name?” Well, in biblical times a name had significant meaning, as a name would denote a characteristic or something related to a person that was a particular feature or identifying trait of the individual. While a name is descriptive, it is also restrictive as it seeks to highlight the dominate character trait of an individual.

When it comes to Jesus one name would not do in describing the wonder of who He was and is. No one name, nor a thousand names, can define or describe Jesus Christ. If one could speak with the tongue of men and angels and one could speak every known language on earth, one would still come up short of fully describing this One named Jesus. The more we know of Him, the more we discover there is to learn about Him. A brief look at some of the names the Bible uses to paint a portrait of the character of Jesus, while revealing much about Him, only scratch the surface of His wonder.

Though not exhaustive by any means, some of the names given to Jesus that shine light on the wonderment of His personhood are: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6-7), the Seed (Gen. 3:15), One born of a Virgin (Is 7:14), Son of God (Mark 1:11), Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13), the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:9), Image of the Invisible God ( Col. 1:15), Heir of all Things (Heb 1:2), Radiance of God’s Glory (Heb. 1:3), Exact Representation of God’s Being (Heb 1:3), the Word (John 1:1-3), the Beloved (Eph 1:6), the Only Begotten Son (Jh 3:16), I AM (Jh 8:58), Dayspring from on High (Lk 1:78), the Indescribable Gift (2 Cor 9:15), the Anointed One, the Ruler (Dan 9:25), Son of David (Matt. 1:1), the Branch (Isa 11:1), Arm of the Lord (Isa 53:1), the Babe (Luke 2:12), Immanuel (Matt 1:23), Holy One (Mark 1:24), Brother (Prov 17:17), the Nazarene ( Matt. 2:23), the Carpenter (Mark 6:3), the Galilean (Lk 23:6), the Man (I Tim 2:5-6), Son of Man ( Matt 20:28), the Prophet (Matt 21:11), the Teacher (Jh 3:2), the Great Physician (Lk 4:23), the Chosen One (Is 42:1), the Servant (Phil. 2:7), Man of Sorrows (Is 53:3), Rabboni (Jh 20:16), Shiloh ( Gen. 49:10), the Star (Num 24:17), the Scepter (Num 24:17), Redeemer (Job 19:25), Lilly of the Valley ( Song of Sol 2:1), the Rose of Sharon (Song of Sol 2:1), the Root (Isa 11:10), Leader and Commander (Is 55:4), Lord of Righteousness (Jer. 23:6), King (Zech 9:9), Messenger of the Covenant (Mal 3:1), Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2), Bridegroom (Matt 9:15), Friend (Matt 11:19), Horn of Salvation ( Lk 1:69), Lamb of God (Jh 1:29), Water of Life (Jh 4:10), Saviour (Jh 4:42), Judge (Acts 10:42), Our Passover (I Cor 5:7), Rock (I Cor 10:4), the Last Adam ( I Cor 15:45), Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:20), the Head (Eph 4:15), All in All (Co 3:11), Our Hope (I Tim 1:1), Master (Matt 8:19), Mediator (I Tim 2:5), Author and Perfecter of Our Faith (Heb 12:2), Ransom ( I Tim 2:5-6), Our Wisdom (I Cor 1:30), Our Sanctifier (I Cor 1:30), Advocate (I Jh 2:1), Potentate (I Tim 6:15), King of Kings and Lord of Lords (I Tim 6:15), Pioneer of Our Salvation (Heb. 2:10), the Apostle of our Profession (Heb 3:1), High Priest (Heb 6:20), Overseer (I Peter 2:25), Atoning Sacrifice (I Jh 2:2), the Amen (Rev 3:14), the Faithful and True Witness (Rev 3:14), Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5), the Bread of Life (Jh 6:35), the Light of the World (Jh 8:12), the Door (Jh 10:9),the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Resurrection and the Life (Jh 11:25), the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jh 14:6), the True Vine (Jh 15:1), the Almighty (Rev 1:8), the Living One (Rev. 1:18), the Offspring of David (Rev, 22:16), Faithful and True (Rev 19:11), the Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), Lord (Jh 20:28), and God (Jh 20:28).

He is all those names and much, much more. Oh, how I wish I could describe Him to you!! But He is indescribable. One name just wouldn’t do and a thousand are inadequate to ever reveal the radiance and luster of this One called Jesus .

O, what a Savior!

Merry Christmas,
Dr. Dan

WHEN GOD BECAME A SERVANT

The marvel of Christmas is that the Babe born in Bethlehem was God manifest in the flesh coming to earth as a servant (Phil. 2:7).  What a truth! Paul called the incarnation a great mystery. And that it is. Most every Christmas someone asks me the question, “When the Word (Jesus), who was God (John 1:1-3), came to earth as a man, did He cease to be fully God? What did Jesus give up (empty himself of) when He clothed Himself in the flesh of man?”

While seeking to answer this question, it is recognized that we can only get a glimpse into a divine mystery which escapes our ability to fully comprehend. But we will seek to climb this spiritual Mt. Everest as far as our finite minds will allow us.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-11  5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This passage speaks of the self-humiliation of Christ as He took upon Himself the form of a servant to come to earth to provide for us what we could not provide for ourselves. He left heaven’s glory to be clothed in human flesh to be our Savior. In Philippians 2:7, the phrase “made Himself of no reputation” in the Greek means “he emptied himself.” The particular Greek word form ἐκένωσεν (ekenōsen) (from kenóō) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, except in this passage. While usage of the word kenóō spoke of removing things from a container, until the container was empty, the word was also used to apply to where one lays aside or empties themselves of their rank and dignity and assumed a humbler rank and role. The King of Glory assumed the role of a servant!!

When he came to earth what did Christ empty himself of or set aside? Some see the verse as implying that Christ, who is the eternal Word (John 1:1-3), relinquished some aspects in the possession of His divine power and attributes. However, if Christ gave up any of His divine attributes can His act on the cross be a saving act since only One who is the God-Man can save sinful man? The answer, Christ did not give-up any of His divine attributes on earth He only self-limited Himself in the full use of them. While veiling Himself in our flesh, He did not cease to be what He was (God) when He assumed the form of a servant. Christ didn’t relinquish His divinity, He limited Himself in the full use of the divine attributes He possessed. He “emptied” Himself of the full use of all His divine attributes and by His divine power self-limited Himself in their use in some instances. Christ did not empty Himself of deity, but of its full outward manifestation. Christ was undiminished deity and perfect humanity united without contradiction in one person.

It is only because Christ is God in the flesh, the eternal Word, that He can self-limit Himself in the full use of His Godness. More than an emptying or a loss of divinity, there was a choosing on Christ’s part, as the God-Man, a self-limiting of His full divinity while on earth. As an example, Jesus said to His disciples when speaking of when He would return, “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). Jesus, though God in the flesh, relinquished and limited, while on earth, knowledge of the exact day and hour when He would return. While on earth Christ temporarily set aside in some instances His omniscience (ability to know everything), He didn’t actually empty himself of the attribute He just chose to self-limit His full use of it.

As well, while on earth Christ, as a man, was limited in His ability to be at more than one place at one time. He limited His omnipresence (ability to be with everyone at the same time) which He had with the Father. As with His omniscience, while on earth Christ temporarily set aside His omnipresence, He didn’t actually empty himself of the attribute He just chose to self-limit His use of it.

Christ, while on earth, set aside the full use of His omnipotence in some instances in order to become a servant in our human likeness to dwell amongst us in order to provide salvation for us. He did not cease to be what He always had been but of certain attributes there was a self-limitation on His part in the use of them. One is truly omnipotent (all-powerful) when they can actually limit their omnipotence as Christ did!!

He who hung the stars in the sky, came to dwell in a lowly manger. He who created man became a man. He who created the earth came to walk on the earth. He who men bow to worship, stooped to wash His disciple’s feet. He who created the sun to shine, died in darkness that we could dwell in His light. He could never be the King of our eternal future if He was not King of the eternal past.

So, when Christ came to earth there was a self-limitation of His divine attributes rather than a self-emptying Himself of them. Because of His holy-love for humanity He limited Himself in the full use of all His attributes though they remained in Him in potential, but not all were used in actuality. For in Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9); therefore, He was, by His power, actually able to self-limit Himself in the use of all His divine attributes. As the insightful theologian P.T. Forsyth wrote, “Christ’s emptying (self-limiting) of Himself is not regarded as the loss of true Godhead, but the condition of it. The freedom that limits itself to create freedom is true omnipotence, as the love that can humble itself to save is truly almighty.” In other words, God in Christ is truly powerful because He has the power to self-limit His power in order to act in saving power on the cross and in the resurrection.

Having such a Savior resulted in Paul exclaiming, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).

O, what a Savior.

Merry Christmas,
Dr. Dan