September 7, 2017

Is the Church a Hospital for Sinners?

Is the church a hospital for sinners? Some people would immediately say, “Yes, of course!” After all, we have heard people say that and it sounds good. The church isn’t meant to be a museum for perfect saints but a place of rescue. Jesus once said to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). We don’t need to make ourselves healthy before we come to the Physician. That would be foolish and impossible. 

On the other hand, is there a potential danger in thinking of the church as a medical center? There might be. The church is not a spiritual health spa. We don’t go to this hospital just for therapy or self-help. It is not somewhere we go for elective minor surgery. It is not a dermatology office where we go to look better on the outside. The church is also not an emergency room where we come to be patched up from the wounds of life and sent back out until next time. 

So, is the church a hospital for sinners? Yes, but only if we think of it as the right kind of hospital. There are different types of medical centers with different specialties: children’s hospitals, cancer hospitals, women’s hospitals, plastic surgery, and more. The truth is that the church is a hospital for sinners, but only if we realize the specialty of this hospital. The church is a hospital that specializes in heart transplants.

Specifically, the church specializes in three things (1) diagnosis, (2) heart transplants, and (3) rehabilitation after heart transplants.

  1. Diagnosis. First, the church gives diagnoses. No one is willing to have a heart transplant just for fun. When someone has a diseased heart their first need is to realize the mortal danger they are in. A good doctor will care about you enough to tell you the tough truth that you don’t want to hear. Only a very bad doctor would keep that information from you—thinking that you will like him more if he only tells you what you want to hear. Likewise, in love a good church will tell you that you are a rebel sinner in grave danger before God. We have all sinned and the wages of sin is death (Rm. 3:23; 6:23). They will make good use of God’s law to convince you that you need heroic measures (Rm. 3:19-20).

  2. Heart Transplant. You are flatlineing in sin! Scripture often describes God’s sovereign work of salvation as a heart transplant. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Romans 2:29 describes salvation as a “circumcision of the heart.” All of these are references to what John 3 describes as being born again. This is regeneration. Saving faith involves a radical procedure. It is a surgery that we cannot perform on ourselves. We are helpless and can do nothing but trust the Physician to save us. He receives all the glory.

  3. Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation comes after the surgery—or it does no good. You don't need rehab first. You need a heart transplant first! Then, after the surgery, recovery and rehab is necessary. As Christians gather together as the church, it should give us humility and hope to remember that we are all here together recovering from our heart surgeries. We are getting stronger but we are still weak. Rehabilitation is a long—life-long—process.

So, yes, we can think of the church as a hospital if we think of it the right way. With that in mind, let me offer some further implications:

  • If you are not well you should go to the Doctor. Go immediately. Don’t be a fool and think that you need to get better first. You can’t and you won’t. You don’t have to clean up first so that you make a good impression.  
  • We should expect to see sick people around the Doctor. Get used to it. A church that only allows perfect people would be as pointless as a hospital that didn’t admit sick patients for care because they didn't want to wreck the pleasant atmosphere.
  • On the other hand, you don’t go to the hospital just to hang out. No one should be at a hospital just because they have free TV and nice people. You shouldn’t be there because you love the food, the comfortable bed, and you enjoy being waited on hand and foot every time you press a buzzer. And yet don’t many people treat church this way?
  • What if a patient isn’t at a hospital in order to get better? What if he refuses to listen to the doctors? What if he is there to cause problems with the other patients? There may come a time when the staff will need to act for the good of the other patients. The hospital should have patience with the patients but expect them to want to get better. The church is a hospital not a resort.
  • Also, remember that the church is a teaching hospital. Instead of checking out, we stay to learn how to help other patients. We learn how to give an accurate diagnosis, how to bring them to the Chief Physician for their heart surgery, and how to grow in rehabilitation afterwards.

The church is a hospital, but it does not primarily exist for the health of the patients. Even more, it exists for the glory of the Physician.

Have you had a heart transplant yet? The doctor stands ready. He is calling for you.


June 21, 2017

Bible Literacy FAIL

I noticed this mistake in the latest issue of TIME Magazine. Do you see it?

I will give you a hint: The mistake I'm talking about has nothing to do with chronology or the speculation that the fiery furnace was a burning oil field.

According to the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar's idol. That is exactly the opposite of what is written here. 

Someone should have caught that even if all of their Bible knowledge was gained from watching Veggie Tales videos--although in that case it was a giant chocolate bunny.

Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe this was a simple slip. However, what gets me is to think about many editors at TIME Magazine who read this without catching the mistake in the story. 

This goes to show the sad state of Bible literacy among the cultural elite. 

There used to be a time that even if people didn't believe the Biblical stories, they at least knew them. Not this TIME.

February 28, 2017

The Authority Filter

The Bible teaches a relationship of headship between husbands and their own wives (Ephesians 5:22-24). Headship certainly carries the idea of authority, but it might not be the idea of authority that many people have in their minds. For this reason many people reject it and others abuse it.

For too many people, “authority” always means “authoritarian” or “domineering.” They have a hard time imagining any type of God-honoring, loving, sacrificing, humble, Christ-like leadership. Their concept of authority is polluted. But like polluted water, the answer is not to reject all water, but to filter it of impurities. We can do this by running our concept of authority through the “authority filters” of Ephesians 5:25-33 and 1 Peter 3:7:   
Ephesians 5:25-33, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
THE AUTHORITY FILTER: From your concept of authority, filter out anything that is not:              

  • Christ-like. (Eph. 5:25-33)
  • Loving.  Love as Christ loved the Church. (Eph. 5:25, 33)  Think about how high a calling this is!
  • Sacrificing.  “And gave Himself up for her.”  (Eph. 5:25) 
  • Serving. (Eph. 5:25-29)
  • Sanctifying.  To make her pure and holy; to help her in her walk with God.  (vs. 26-27)
  • Providing.  “Feeds and cares for it.” (Eph. 5:29)
  • Nurturing.  “Feeds and cares for it.” (Eph. 5:29)
  • Caring.  “Feeds and cares for it.” (Eph. 5:28-29)
1 Peter 3:7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
  • Considerate.  “be considerate” (1 Pt. 3:7)
  • Respectful.  “treat them with respect” (1 Pt. 3:7)
  • Non-Diminishing.  “heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (1 Pt. 3:7)
What remains after the filter is closer to the biblical understanding of Christ-like headship & authority. This is the type of leadership that husbands should provide for their wives and their families.

February 27, 2017

More New Earths?

"Scientists say life may have already evolved on at least three of the planets."

Every time they announce that new "Earth-like" planets have been discovered, it is the same thing over and over again.

The headlines claim that three of the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 "could support alien life." But looking closer, the only reason they say that is because these planets might have temperatures that would keep water in liquid form--if they have water. Then the assumption is that since Earth isn't anything special (assumption), life must spring up fairly easily when there is liquid water (assumption).

The vast majority of planets that have been discovered elsewhere are "Hot Jupiters" i.e., enormous gas giants orbiting extremely close to their star, with no solid surface and temperatures that would make life impossible. So when the articles say that these planets are "just like earth" it is only by comparison to these Hot Jupiters.

The planets around TRAPPIST-1 are similar to Earth in mass, but still very different from Earth. Here are a few of the differences: 
  1. They orbit a very small "ultra cool dwarf star" about 11% the radius of our yellow Sun. 
  2. These planets are tidally locked to the star, meaning that one side of the planet always faces the star and the other side always faces away. This means that one side would be extremely hot and the other extremely cold. The only place liquid water might exists would be on the thin strip between the two halves. 
  3. The three planets that could maintain liquid water (e, f, and g) are extremely close to their star. The closest is only 2.8% of the distance from its star that Earth is from the Sun. The furthers of the three is 4.5% the distance of the Earth from the Sun. This means they would be much more susceptible to solar flares and radiation. 
  4. These planets orbit their star every 6-12 days. That is a very short year!
Also remember that any pictures you see of these planets are artist interpretations. We do not have actual photographs of these planets. The planets are detected by noticing the dimming of the star as the planets block some of the light when they orbit in front of it. The pictures--like the NASA illustration above--may show oceans, but those are from the artist rather than evidence.

I wrote an article on this several years ago about another planet they claimed was "just like Earth." Most of what I wrote applies to these new planets as well. The one big difference is that at the time they had only discovered about 500 planets outside our solar system. Now, the number is about 3,500. However, of the 3,500 they only think that maybe 22 do not already have the possibility of supporting life ruled out. That about half of 1%. For the other 99.4% they know there isn't the slightest chance.

I love these scientific discoveries, but what they tell me is that Earth is much more special than we assume.

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