Sam left a comment in the previous post about a discussion he was having with friends about 2 Timothy 2:22-24. He asked for my thoughts, particularly as they regarded our conversation a while back about David Platt, reformed theology, and whether or not God hates sinners. That conversation began with this post, in which I criticized David Platt’s exegesis of the psalms. It then continued in the comments and into several other posts, including:

Biblical Hatred
How I Read the Bible
Why I Criticized David Platt on My Blog
Questions for Calvinists
A Response to a Response

That was a long and involved series of posts that had a lot of theological debate. The passage that Sam refers to from 2 Timothy says this:

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

So I think the first question is this: Is the discussion about Calvinism v. Arminianism, predestination v. free will, etc. a “foolish and stupid argument”? I’ve heard a lot of folks, exasperated from the same late-night conversation playing itself out over and over again, decry this conversation as one of those stupid arguments that Christians should avoid. I’m certainly sympathetic to that position; this conversation can be exasperating.

But I don’t consider it a foolish and stupid argument because I believe that it pertains to the nature of God. Calvinists and Arminians understand God in fundamentally different ways. If you believe in, for example, double predestination, then you perceive God in a radically different way than someone who believes in free-will. Roger Olson, an Arminian biblical scholar, would even go so far as to say you believe in a different God altogether.

Where it breaks down, though, is when you are more concerned about being right than having godly character. Not only can our drive to be right, or to win an argument, obscure our perception of the truth, it can also reflect deep character flaws that need to be redeemed. When your aim is to win the argument rather than discover the truth, you have become quarrelsome. That might sound like a petty sin, but quarrels lead to broken relationships within the body of Christ. In fact, doctrinal quarrels have led to the fractured and splintered state the Church is in right now. Being quarrelsome is a serious issue that reflects deep character shortcomings.

While some conversations are important to have, and some disagreements are going to result from those conversations, it’s important to not be foolish or stupid, or do anything that would turn those conversations into an argument or a quarrel. We must strive, as the Scripture says, to be kind to everyone. We must be able to teach, which is definitely not the same as shouting or arguing.

So I say, let the conversations continue, but let them continue in the spirit outlined by Paul in this passage.

Last night I had the holy privilege of preparing three people for baptism. I heard amazing testimonies of God’s power from Mary, Ian, and Dustin. I was truly overwhelmed by the goodness and power of God, and I am so excited to baptize these three this Sunday at Ember.

Baptizing is one of the greatest honors I have as a pastor. I get to be the participating witness to their public confession of faith and full identification with Jesus, his death, and resurrection.

I’ll be honest. Planting this church has been hard in many ways. It has not turned out like I had hoped or expected. And yet, as I consider those who have been impacted by our church, such that they would take the step of obedient faith and be baptized here, I am on the verge of tears. These beautiful and courageous souls have given me and Ember a great honor, something I will never forget.

Easter is the celebration of new life, of the power of God to conquer death, and of our own hope of resurrection and life forever with Jesus. Baptism is a symbol of all of that. If you want to be baptized this week at Ember, let me know. I would love to make that happen.

Yesterday I posted about how Jesus brilliantly refuted a trap question from a group called the Pharisees. Today I want to look at how he refutes the Pharisees’ rival group, known as the Sadducees.

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

The Sadducees were a different group from the Pharisees. The two groups often engaged in sharp debate, and the resurrection was one of those flashpoints of conflict between the two. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection; that’s why they were sad, you see. (Whaa-whaaaa)

They came to Jesus because they had heard that he believed in the resurrection, and they wanted to pose a question to him that they had probably posed to many Pharisees. It was a dishonest question, meant to make resurrection look like a ridiculous, and even unbiblical, idea. I imagine that no Pharisee had been able to give them a satisfactory reply, so they thought they could trap Jesus with this one.

One woman. Seven brothers. Each man obeyed the biblical law by marrying his older brother’s widow and trying to produce an heir for him. This was how a family was able to continue it’s line. Should the oldest brother die without an heir, the next brother in line was responsible for marrying his brother’s widow and producing a male child for his dead brother. It was a sort of surrogacy.

So the woman and the seven brothers die without producing an heir. When the resurrection happens, and here the Sadducees are probably snickering to themselves, whose wife will she be? She couldn’t possibly be married to all of them; that would be adultery! How can there be adultery in the resurrection? How can obedience to the biblical law in this life lead to disobedience to the biblical law in the resurrection? That’s exactly the situation we have in this scenario. Obviously, the Sadducees conclude, the resurrection cannot exist.

But Jesus refuted them, and quite easily actually. But he did it by dropping the bomb that destroys the hopes and dreams of every young, evangelical Christian. “When the dead rise,” he said, “they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” There will be no marriage in heaven. Or, to put it more accurately, romantic, sexual love, and the unique bond between two people that goes along with it, will not exist in the resurrection.

Now let me say this. If you find that thought so depressing, so repugnant, so distasteful, so disappointing that you don’t even want to participate in the resurrection anymore, then you have made marriage and romantic love into an idol. In fact, I believe one of the most powerful idols that afflicts young people, and especially young people today, especially Christian young people, is the idol of romantic love.

We put a lot of hope into romantic love. We think of it as normal. We think it’s our right to be loved, and to experience this romantic love, for all of our lives. But there’s a greater love, a better love than this, and too many of us are missing out on it because we’ve made romantic love an idol in our hearts.

The greater love is the agape love that we will experience with Jesus for eternity. At the end of the Bible there’s a wedding; the groom is Jesus, and the bride is the Church. But they’re not getting married under the compulsion of romantic love, but rather in the promise of agape love.

Agape love is the love of the cross. It’s the love that lays down its life, that forgives sins, and refuses to demand its rights. This is the love that Jesus made a reality for us when he died for our sins on the cross.

There won’t be marriage in the resurrection, because in the resurrection, agape love will replace romantic love. Romantic love is a shadow, a wonderful, exciting shadow, but still a shadow of the deep self-sacrificing love of God that we will all experience together, with God, for all eternity. We are invited to fully participate in divine love of the Trinity.

People hated Jesus. They tried to trap him. They wanted to kill him. This passage represents one of their best efforts at trapping him.

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

So now the religious leaders are pretty upset. They’re trying to trap Jesus with this question. If he said that it’s not right for the Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would be arrested by the Romans, and potentially tried for insurrection. If he said that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, then the people would reject him because they despised the pagan Romans, and deeply resented their presence in Israel. What’s he supposed to do? What can he say? There’s no way out of this conundrum.

Well, you can’t trap Jesus. He knew exactly what was going on, and he wasn’t going to be caught in their trap. So he had someone bring him one of the Roman coins, a denarius. “Whose image is this?” he asked.

“It’s Caesar’s,” they responded.

“Well then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

But he left something out. Where is God’s image inscribed? On us. On every human being on the face of the earth. Genesis 1 says that we are made in God’s image. We bear God’s inscription.

So everything that has Caesar’s image on it belongs to Caesar, but everything that has God’s image on it belongs to God. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Go ahead and give your money to Caesar. God doesn’t really care about that anyway. But give yourself to God. That’s what he wants. He’s not concerned about your taxes. He’s not concerned about the pagans collecting your money. He’s concerned about your generosity toward him. How much of yourself are you giving to God?

Are you being generous with yourself—your thoughts, your actions, your heart, your will, your talents, your gifts, your being, your future—are you being generous in giving yourself to God? You are made in the image of God. You belong to God. All of you.

There have been some dominant themes that, I believe, God has been trying to pound into our heads and hearts throughout the course of Ember’s existence. One of those themes is that God can change us at the level of our deep heart desires. He changes us through the power of the Gospel, through his grace and mercy seeping into the cracks of our hearts, our minds, our wills.

But in order to be changed we must give ourselves over to his grace. We must throw ourselves down at the foot of the cross, placing all of our trust, all of our hope, all of our dreams, all of our desires upon the broad and broken shoulders of Jesus. We must abandon our way of doing things, our agendas for this life, and throw ourselves fully onto the grace of God found only in his son, Jesus Christ.

I flew on my first business trip yesterday, leaving Columbus at 5:30 in the morning and getting into Savannah at 4:30. (It shouldn’t have taken that long, but that’s another story for another day.) The thing I love most about flying is being able to see the ground from 30,000 feet, especially at night. It’s breathtaking.

I know that God doesn’t live in the clouds, but when I think about God looking out over the earth, I always imagine him having this airplane-level view. He can see far more than we can see on the ground.

Many of Jesus’ parables offer a picture of life from God’s perspective. The parable of the vineyard, in Mark 12, is one of them.

1 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

Jesus just took the entire history of Israel and turned it into a parable. That’s what this is about. It’s about what the kings and leaders of Israel and Judah did to God’s prophets from the time of Elijah until the time of Jesus. They were stoned. They were impaled on spikes. They were sawn in half. They were thrown into pits and left to die. They were rejected, scorned, mocked, ridiculed. They were treated shamefully, beaten, killed. This was the pattern that existed in Israel for almost a millennium. God’s people killed God’s messengers.

It’s an interesting way to look at it, isn’t it? From God’s perspective? How often do you look at the circumstances and events of your life from God’s perspective? And if you were able to see your life through God’s eyes, what would you see? How would you see things differently?

The other night my wife and I were talking about stress, and the things that add stress to our lives. She talked about how she gets stressed when I’m in a bad mood, or when I’m angry. It doesn’t even have to be at her, but she still feels stressed and guilty. I said I feel the same way. When she’s stressed or frustrated, I have an emotional reaction to that, even when she’s not upset with me.

In that moment we experienced this wonderful thing called empathy. We understood each other. We saw things from one another’s perspective. And that felt like a relational breakthrough.

What we need in our relationship with God is empathy. We need to see things from his perspective. That’s what Jesus offers us in this parable. In fact, that’s what Jesus offers us in himself. He is God’s living and breathing perspective. He is God. Knowing Jesus, having a personal relationship with him, means empathizing with God.

And here’s the amazing thing about Jesus. Yes, he is God. But he is also human. And he empathizes with us. Jesus understands. Whatever you’re going through, Jesus gets it. He knows how it feels to be lonely, rejected. He knows the meaning of suffering. He was victimized. He was tortured. He was mocked. Jesus gets it. Jesus gets you.

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