Monday, 30 June 2014

Systematic Theology, Chapter 21.

The Creation of Man.

First of all, why didnt Grudem use a gender neutral term like, "The creation of mankind/humanity?"  He responds clearly that God himself sets this precedent to call all of his created humanity as "man" and this theologically even has significance to show roles of men and women from the start.

God did not "need" us, or create us because of "loneliness," but rather quite simply for his own glory.


Our purpose in life is to glorify him. We are significant IN that purpose.  We are also to enjoy God and take delight in him and our relationship to him.

John 10:10, I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

As we rejoice in God, so he rejoices in us. "He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love...." Zeph 3.

We are in the image of God, i.e. we are like God and represent God.  Throughout scripture we see an explanation of this idea.

Even after Adam and Eve sinned, man was still called to be "in God's image."  James 3:9 says that men generally, and not just believers, are made in the likeness of God.  Sin has distorted many aspects that were before more "like God."

When we are redeemed by Christ (become Christian), we can grow more into the likeness of God.  God's goal for redemption is that we might be "conformed to the image of his Son." Romans 8:29.

God's purpose for creating man in his image was completely realized in the person of Jesus Christ. 

How does mankind differ from the rest of creation?
1. We are morally accountable.
2. We have a spiritual aspect, we can pray, hear God speak to us, etc. And we have spiritual immortality.
3. We have mental aspects.  we can reason, speak various languages, we have creativity and inventiveness, we have much more complex emotions than animals.
4. We have a deeper relational ability than animals, such as a church which can be closer than family through the bonds of Christ, in marriage, and man's given right to rule over creation.
5. Our physical bodies allow us to reflect God's character through our actions.

All of creation in different ways reflects God, but only mankind is so like God that he can be said to be "In the image of God."

Since we humans are created in the likeness of God, we must treat each other with dignity and respect that is due to God's image bearer. That means that the elderly, ill, retarded, and those infants yet unborn, deserve full protection and honor as human beings.


Next week, "Man" as male and female. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Systematic Theology, chapter 20

Satan and Demons.

They were angels, who sinned against God, and who now continually work evil in the world.

They are separated from God and in "eternal chains." (Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4).

Satan is the head of the demons, which means adversary in Hebrew.

Satan is the first one to sin historically.

Demons oppose and try to destroy every work of God.  They use lies, deception, murder, etc to try to cause people to turn away from God and destroy themselves.

Demons are limited in power, and can be successfully resisted by Christians through the authority Christ gives them.  They do not know the future, only God knows the future, and they cannot read our thoughts.

In the Old Testament, the false gods that people worshipped were demons, "they sacrificed to demons which were no gods." Deut 32.

Just as pagan worship of demonic idols leads to destructive practices such as sacrificing children, inflicting bodily harm, cult prostitution, so will worship of demons regularly lead towards immoral and self destructive practices.

Jesus was doing something new in history by casting out demons with authority, and this is a mark in history to bring in the reign of the kingdom of God in power.  Jesus speaks of "binding the strong man,"  Matt 12, and indeed Jesus triumphs over Satan.

There will be a final judgement, where Satan and his angels are decisively defeated and thrown into the lake of fire.

Are Demons active in the world today?   Modern society has a hard time admitting to something they cannot see or touch.
"However, if Scripture gives us a true account of the world as it really is, then we must take seriously its portrayal of intense demonic involvement in human society."
How do we recognize demonic activity today?

Demonic influences are far reaching around us, and yet the power of God and the gospel is what we are often encouraged to go to in the New Testament.

1 John 3:8 says, He who commits sin is of the devil....and yet the context is comparing who are children of God, those who do right, love his brother, etc.

Satan is the originator or father of lies, murder, deception, false teaching and general sin.  Not all sin is cause by Satan or demons, but it factors into almost all destructive activity that opposes the work of God in the world today.

The responsibility is ours as Christians to give no opportunity to the devil (Eph 4:26),  and also in 1 John 5:18 it says,  He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.  Demons can indeed influence us in our sinful areas, and we need to seek God's help.

No Christian can be so influenced by a demon (some say demon possessed) to the point that they dont have any power to chose to do right and obey God.   Romans 6:14 says, Sin shall have no dominion over us since we have been raised with Christ.

The question of how much a demon can influence a Christian is similar to the question, how much can a genuine Christian let his life be dominated by sin and still be a born again Christian? Yes, both sin and demonic attacks can happen to true Christians.

How do we recognize it?  Satanic  activity always tends toward the ultimate destruction  of parts of God's creation and especially of human beings who are made in the image of God.  Demonic influence will lead to blatantly false doctrinal statements, such as exclaiming "Jesus be cursed."

The Bible mentions a spiritual gift to be able to discern between spirits.  Sometimes Christians can sense both other Christians and distinct evil before discussing what it is.

Jesus gives all believers authority to rebuke demons and command them to leave.
Many examples are given of believers casting out demons in Jesus name.
Eph 6 says, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

The work of Christ on the cross is the ultimate basis for our authority over demons.  Because of Christ's death on the cross, our sins are completely forgiven, and Satan has no rightful authority over us.  We are also members in God's family, and when Satan picks on one of us, he picks on God our father!

1 John 4:4, You are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Why should Christians get involved at all?  Can't God just solve it if we pray to him?  (in the same thought line, why do we need to speak to people in evangelism and not just pray for them from a distance?)  The answer is that God has given us a very active role in carrying out his plans.

Paul speaks about not just wrestling with flesh and blood but also against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6).

When dealing with evil spirits, we shoudl remember that we who have the Holy Spirit have a spirit of gentleness and peace (1 Cor 14:33). If we pray for a person and command an evil spirit to leave, often the person can express a feeling of relief, freedom, joy, and peace.  The power to cast out demons comes not from our own strength or power of our own voice, but from the Holy Spirit.

A non-Christian who has had an evil spirit removed should be encouraged to come to Christ as soon as possible, so there is no foothold for the devil to return.

In summary, demons are around, and God is triumphant over all of them and protects his children.  He has given us weapons and power to stand fast in Christ Jesus.

Next week, "The creation of man."


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Systematic Theology, Chapter 19

Angels.

They are:  created, spiritual, have moral judgement, have high intelligence, but without physical bodies.

1. Created. All things except God himself were created.
2. Moral judgement. We know they have ability to choose, because some of them chose to rebel.
3. High intelligence. We can see through how they speak to people and sing praises to God.
4. Spirits.  God can and has given them the ability to be seen, but they otherwise guard and protect us and worship God in a way that is invisible to us.

Three other types of heavenly beings include:
1.  Cherubim,who guard the garden of Eden and work in God's "chariot" often in scripture
2.  Seraphim, worship God.
3. and the Living creatures, lion, ox, man, eagle, etc, who worship God.


Michael is an archangel, in a higher rank.

Angels are not omnipresent, but can be in one place at a time. There is a large number of angels (scripture often says, "thousands of thousands."

Guardian angels may exist, but there is no convincing support that each and every person have their own specific angel for life.

Angels do not marry.  They are very powerful. They were made sometime before the first 7 days of creation were done.

The "Angel of the Lord," in scripture, seems to be God himself revealing himself to people, especially in the old Testament.

Humans compared to angels.
We are created in the image of God, not necessarily angels.
We procreate and have families, not angels.
God shows a salvation plan for us but not the angels (who were rebellious).

When we compare God's mercy on mankind, that he would save some of us, even though ALL have sinned, while meanwhile he does not have that same mercy on the angels, should make us more and more thankful for God's graciousness.

Angels are an example to us, in their glad immediate obedience and joy in worshiping God as they do in heaven.

Angels are messengers for God, bring God's judgement on people, and will accompany Christ in his return.  They also patrol the earth and fight the enemy.  They glorify and worship God, and rejoice over new believers.

How does this apply to our daily lives?  When we worship, a whole group of angels worships with us, they are watching our obedience or disobedience, and they are also cheering along in our service of God.  Our hospitality to all could be some angel unaware, they guard us and bear us up so we don't fall.

The Bible also warns of false "angels." Any new insight or revelation contrary to Scripture should be suspect. (Moroni angel to Joseph Smith).  We should not worship, pray to, or seek angels.


Angels may make appearances today, as they did throughout the Bible.  If God could send a human being to warn us of danger or encourage us, there is no reason he could not send an angel, but we should be very careful to discern if this is from God and in accordance with scripture.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wayne Grudems systematic theology, Chapter 18

Prayer.

What is it, why do we do it?

"Prayer is personal communication with God."

He already knows what we need, BUT prayer can express our trust in God, and a way to increase trust in him.

In true humble dependence, we can show we truly believe in the good and true attributes of God, and God delights in this.
hand holding

The Lord's prayer starts by putting things in the right perspective.  We are praying to God, a loving and wise Father who rules over all.

Prayer then takes us into a relationship of love and fellowship with God.

And finally, we can thus be involved in activities of eternal importance.

How effective is prayer?
1. It changes the way God acts.
2. Jesus Christ is an effective mediator between us and God. ....can God then hear the prayers of those who do not trust in Jesus?  Although God hears everything, and might act in mercy to non-believers' prayers, he speaks clearly that his will is for us to pray with Jesus as a mediator.
3. Praying in Jesus name, what is that? It is not just a magical line at the end of a prayer, "in Jesus name, Amen," but rather to pray in accordance with his will, and under his authority.

The Holy Spirit has a big role in prayer, as Romans 8 expresses, "Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs to deep for words."

We need to pray in accordance with God's will.

When the Bible is clear on a topic, it is easy to know God's will, for he always wants his word to be obeyed and commands kept.  When it is not so clear, we may add in our thoughts and words, "if it is your will,"which shows our submissiveness to God's will over all our own wishes.

Praying with faith.
   God wants us to pray in the knowledge and and assurance of his ability and omnipotence.  We cannot force these feelings, but God can give us a sense of assurance and readiness to rest in Him.

Obedience. Things that displease God are a hindrance to prayer/relationship with Him.  Prayer and holy living must go together.

Confession of Sins. It is a good habit to pray in confession of sins when we pray, and even remember James 5, which encourages us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another."


Forgiveness.  We can not be holding a grudge or stand in unforgiveness and approach the throne of God.

Humility. This is the right attitude to have in praying to God.

Continuing in prayer over time. Repetition of the same prayer requests is shown in several examples in scripture to be ok.  Persistence shows God that we truly take the issue/prayer request to him in his sovereignty.

Praying earnestly. As we read many Old Testament prayers, we can almost hear the intensity of their hearts as they pour out their prayers to God. We cannot fool God by faking this genuineness, but when we start to see the world which is hurting and dying, we often cannot help but have an emotional involvement in what God is doing.

Waiting on the Lord. What a joy when we can come before the Lord, and wait in his presence after we have spoken to him.  Sometimes we are rushed, but in general, this is an ideal way to come before the Lord.

Praying in private. There are many examples of this, and it is important that we are not out to impress others through our public prayers and words.
 

Praying with others. There are also many examples of group prayer in the scriptures, and this is also right and good.

Fasting. This is often linked with supplication (asking the Lord for something).  We learn dependence on God in our weakness, self discipline which can branch out into other aspects of life, a focus less on the material things of this world, and an urgency in our prayers.

What about unanswered prayer? we cannot see God's plan in everything.  The Jews prayed and waited for centuries before the Messiah came. Sometimes what we don't understand, "God has meant for good." (Gen 50:20).

Regardless of if our "desired prayers" are answered, God's grace is sufficient for each day.

In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. Phil 4:6.

Next week, Angels.




Ordering food over the internet? This past week we tried "matsmart.se" to buy discount food.  Interesting idea, and here are...