Archive for October, 2012

Do You Believe In Sin?
– Thoughts from Obama, David, and Augustine

by Ron Hale

He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, and Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.


Cathleen Falsani, a religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, got an hour of Barack Obama’s time at a quaint little coffee shop called Café Baci.  It was Saturday, March 27, 2004. The interview took place just a few days after Mr. Obama clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. This would be the first story in a series of articles called The God Factor by Falsani.

Deep into the dialogue, the reporter asked Mr. Obama about sin; I will share from the transcript:

Falsani: Do you believe in sin?
OBAMA: ?Yes.
Falsani: What is sin?
OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.
Falsani: What happens if you have sin in your life?
OBAMA: I think it’s the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I’m true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.

Thankfully, our current President believes in sin; but …

President Obama’s definition of sin resembles the answer given by a New Age Guru sitting at the top of a lofty mountain peak after mystical meditation.

“Being out of alignment with my values”… falls short of any sort of biblical definition of sin that I have ever read or heard.  Prior to this statement, Mr. Obama had declared his deep faith as a Christian to the reporter, but the “out-of-alignment” answer reveals the shallowness of his biblical studies.

Through the years, many have sought to answer the reporter’s question concerning sin and a good number have missed the mark.

For the serious Christian basing his or her beliefs on the Old and New Testaments, a definition of sin can only be understood in one’s relationship to God.  Sin is an affront and assault on the very person of God. It is against God and His laws; it’s not against one’s personal values or their inner moral compass acquired by reading books on the philosophy of religion at Barnes & Noble while sipping frothy Caffé Lattes.

Like a flailing man stuck in a tar pit, King David in the Old Testament came to see his murderous adultery as a slap to the face of God. Sinking in the depths of sin, David’s desperate cry of confession is both pointed and pleading, as he shamefully admits first and foremost his personal sin was against a holy God.

 

Be gracious to me, God

According to Your faithful love;

According to Your abundant compassion,

Blot out my rebellion,

Wash away my guilt,

And cleanse me from my sin.

For I am conscious of my rebellion,

And my sin is always before me.

Against You – You alone – I have sinned

and done this evil in Your sight.

Psalm 51:1-4 HCSB

 

David did not seek to define sin independent of God and those who do only sound silly.

Dr. W.T. Conner once said, “Sin is against God.  In a godless world the idea of sin would have no meaning.  As men lose the consciousness of God, the sense of sin also goes out of their minds and hearts.” [i]

David (the Psalmist) uses the Hebrew word ra’ in Ps. 51:4 for his sin.  The word connects the wicked deed to its dreadful consequences.  This evil brings about hurt and harm to the sinner and ongoing torture and turmoil to those near him.  We see the affects of David’s sin on himself and his family as his sin brings misery on many!

Sin is something that we should never grow accustomed to or take lightly.  Like an unwelcomed parasite, it must be removed.   Sin is not normal and never natural to our lives; we must be extricated from the tar pit of our transgression.

Ironically, church history has been dominated by the theology of a man once deeply stuck in sin.  Augustine of Hippo, influenced by Neo-Platonism, Skepticism, and Manichaeism, developed the doctrine of original sin after becoming a follower of Christ.  Ambrose played a key role in Augustine’s conversion.

Augustine writes of the concubine that he took for himself as he traveled to Carthage as a young man, he recalls, “It was a sweet thing to be loved, and more sweet still when I was able to enjoy the body of a woman” (Confessions 3, 51).[ii] Later he says, “In those days I lived with a woman, not my lawful wife but a woman whom I had chosen for no special reason but that my restless passions had alighted on her” (Confessions 4, 4).[iii]

Augustine was born a Roman citizen and would have been restricted in marrying a lower caste woman, especially a slave.  Soon their son, Adeodatus was born when Augustine was only eighteen years old. Augustine’s concubinage lasted fourteen years.

In 385, Monica, the mother of Augustine, arranged for him to marry a woman of his social standing. This would mean that his concubine would be sent away to North Africa and she forever remains a “nameless” person in all his years of writing.  His son Adeodatus tragically died at the age of eighteen.

In summer of 386, Augustine was converted after reading these words in the New Testament, “Not in carousing and drunkenness, not is sexual excess and lust, not in quarrelling and jealousy, Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:13-14). Immediately, all his doubts were dispelled and light flooded his heart.

Along with King David, who also had a son outside of marriage, Augustine could identify with (PS.51:5) as the Psalm says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

 

©Ron F. Hale, September 4, 2012


[i] W.T. Conner, The Gospel of Redemption (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1945), 1.

 

Do All Paths Lead to God?

by Dr. Adam Harwood
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Truett-McConnell College

Ed’s. note: This column first appeared in the Sept. 20, 2012 edition of The Christian Index, a publication of the Georgia Baptist Convention.


Recently, I was on a plane from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth. Next to me was a middle-aged man. We spoke about his work, his family, and his weekly commute. I noticed he was reading from a journal with notes in another language. I learned that it was his handwritten Hindu prayer journal. Sensing a perfect opportunity to talk about spiritual issues, I asked him about the content of his journal. To which of the millions of Hindu gods does he pray? How can he know if his prayers are heard? What if he steps into eternity and discovers that Jesus was correct about everything He ever said?

As he spoke about Hinduism, my new friend made this statement which has been voiced countless times: “I think all paths lead to God.” He thinks every person who is sincere, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian, is on a religious path which will eventually lead to God. He thinks all religions lead to God.

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Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.

These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.

Psalm 142:1-7


Introduction

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows but Jesus.”  Do you remember this rendition of the first two lines of the old Spiritual?

David expresses a similar sentiment in this Maschil which means “a psalm of instruction”.  Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “This Maschil is written for our instruction.  It teaches us principally by example how to order our prayer in times of distress.  Such instruction is among the most needful, practical, and effectual parts of our spiritual education.  He who has learned how to pray has been taught the most useful of the arts and sciences.  The disciples said unto the Son of David, ‘Lord, teach, us to pray’; and here David gives us a valuable lesson by recording his own experience as to supplication from beneath a cloud.”[1] In Psalm 142:1-7, we read, “I cry out to the Lord with my voice; / With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication.  I pour out my complaint before Him; / I declare before Him my trouble.  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, / Then You knew my path.  In the way in which I walk / They have secretly set a snare for me.  Look on my right hand and see, / For there is no one who acknowledges me; / Refuge has failed me; / No one cares for my soul.  I cried out to You, O Lord:  I said, ‘You are my refuge, / My portion in the land of the living.  Attend to my cry, / For I am brought very low; / Deliver me from my persecutors, / For they are stronger than I.  Bring my soul out of prison, / That I may praise Your name; / The righteous shall surround me, / For You shall deal bountifully with me.”

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