The Goal of Life

November 28, 2011

On July 4, 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim the channel from Catalina Island to California. She was no new comer to long distance swimming. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. The conditions that day were challenging. The water was numbing cold. Sharks were driven away by rifle fire. But the greatest challenge was the fog. The fog was so thick that you could barely see the boats that accompanied her. For 15 hours, she swam before asking to be taken out of the water. Her trainer attempted to urge her on, but to no avail. She quit only to find herself one mile from land. In an interview she said, “I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it.” The fog obscuring her view of the goal had defeated her.

Do we see our goal or does the “fog” of busyness and daily living obscure our sight and discourage us? One thing is certain—Christian living is goal oriented. Listen to the Apostle Paul.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14, ESV

Paul clearly sees his goal. He realizes that he has not yet attained it. He is willing to sacrifice everything to attain “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Such goal oriented language is not unusual in scripture (see also 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 22:37, and Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Two months after Florence Chadwick’s failed attempt, she again stepped into the waters off Catalina. She swam the distance setting a new speed record for the swim. The difference—this time she could see her goal. The fog had lifted.

Is there a fog obscuring your sight of the goal of life? May we with Paul say, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, ESV).

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Regeneration

November 14, 2011

Regeneration means to be born again. In the context of the New Testament, it is the spiritual rebirth associated with receiving the Holy Spirit. Some argue that regeneration occurs first and then is followed by faith. Others argue that regeneration differs from person to person. Some argue that a person becomes a Christian and then one must seek the Spirit to receive Him. By definition, regeneration must be God’s act, but we still ask when does regeneration take place? What is the evidence of the New Testament?

  • John 7:37-39 “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” ESV Evidence: belief * regeneration
  • Galatians 3:2 “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” ESV Evidence: hear * faith * regeneration
  • Acts 2:38 “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” ESV Several things suggest that “gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to the gift which is the Holy Spirit. It is certainly one of the grammatical possibilities. This grammatical possibility seems to make the best sense in the light of the New Testament’s teaching that Christians receive the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 6:19). Evidence: repentance * baptism * regeneration
  • Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” ESV Evidence: obedience * regeneration
  • John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” ESV Grammatically, the passage is talking of one birth with two aspects: water and the Spirit. Given the context of the New Testament, the water in this passage most likely refers to baptism. Evidence: water and regeneration
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” ESV Evidence: baptism and regeneration
  • Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” ESV Clearly baptism and regeneration are linked together in other passages. This makes the reference to washing most likely a reference to baptism. Evidence: washing and regeneration

When taken with all the New Testament evidence, becoming a Christian involves faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and regeneration. Regeneration before faith does not fit the evidence. Neither does the idea that the reception of the Spirit is long after becoming a Christian. And although there is a variety of ways of expressing things, as the above list demonstrates, the variety is not inconsistent. A pattern emerges from the evidence when taken as a whole. Have you been born again?


Till When?

November 4, 2011

The answer in the traditional wedding vow to this question is “till death do us part.” A few years ago I was reading through some sample wedding vows online and found one that read “till love dies.” That is certainly the vow many people seemingly mean even if it is not the one they promise, and the tabloid news gives us an example of this in one more brief celebrity marriage lasting 72 days. If it were just a matter of celebrities, I’m not sure it would be worth noting, but the evidence around us is that a biblical view of marriage is in trouble.

What is the evidence? The divorce rate for first time marriages is around 40% (it has been as high as 50%). Seventy percent of Americans were married in 1960. Now it is about 50 percent. In the 1960s, two-thirds of twenty year olds were married. Today it is about 26%. What has replaced marriage among young adults is living together. Cohabitation which was once rare is now the norm. Over half of marriages begin with cohabitation, yet couples who cohabit are more likely to divorce. Forty percent of births in the U.S. for 2007 were out of wedlock.

What does God’s word have to say? Here’s a small sampling:

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:6, ESV)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4, ESV)

Let me summarize the Bible’s teaching on marriage.

  • God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:4-6)
  • God desires that marriage be until death do us part. (Matthew 19:6)
  • God permits divorce in the case of sexual immorality, but God hates divorce. (Matthew 19:9, Malachi 2:16 see NASB)
  • God will judge sexual activity outside of marriage. They are the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)

In today’s world, these verses are like a voice crying in the wilderness. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear?