Archive for March, 2015

Before you reach for a pen, or steady your fingers to type a response to the suggestive title, I need you to know that it is not what you think.  I am completely against the idea of murder.  I do not worship Molech, nor do I support any idea of sacrificing people and or animals to appease a god.  It is a horrible and sinful thing when people do this type of occultic worship. However, I am talking about a spiritual human sacrifice of sorts.  We find this concept in Matthew’s gospel.  He writes,

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’” – Matthew 16:24-26  

To be a true follower of Christ, we must first die to ourselves.  This is why I not only support, but constantly try to live, this human sacrificing lifestyle.  How do we do this?  How do you live a life as a follower of Christ in light of these radical commands?  These verses describe three ways we must die to self; I would like to briefly unpack them in hopes that you too will choose to live a life of continual self-sacrifice.

Deny Yourself:

To deny yourself means to put your desires second to God’s.  We are all selfish by nature.  We want what we want.  However, what we want is not always what God wants.  Before Christ, we wanted to be our own god in a way.  We wanted complete control of our lives.  But, to follow Jesus, we must first deny our sinful desires through faith and repentance by relying on His grace for our salvation.  It is no different once we are saved.  We must still deny our fleshly desires if they do not line up with God’s.  This is a daily task.  We must die to ourselves.  We must deny our flesh, and submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  The glorious thing about this is, eventually it gets easier.  When we deny ourselves, we start to take delight in the Lord as the Psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  To deny yourself is to commit human sacrifice (the sacrifice of your oneself),  which is a requirement of the Lord.

Take up Your Cross:

The cross was a gruesome instrument of death.  Jesus was telling His disciples that if they were to follow Him that meant they had to surrender their lives to live obediently to Him.  It would identify them with Jesus . . . even unto death, to which 10 of the 11 true disciples would eventually succumb, through martyrdom.  This is evidence that they fully surrendered to Jesus.  The same type of surrender is required of Christians today.  We should expect persecution.  We should be willing to bear it, knowing that He is with us though it all and that He can sympathize with us.  Taking up your cross says that you have a life-or-death devotion to Christ.  I will live for Him with eternity in view.  I will die for Him for the glory of the King.  To take up your cross is to sentence yourself to death, but in doing so it identifies you with the One who overcame death in our place.

Follow Him:

Following Jesus is not just saying a prayer, going to church, and giving financially to a church or other Christian organization.  This type of Christianity would have been a foreign concept to first century Christians.  Jesus said for a person to count the cost before following Him.  To follow Him means to follow His teachings, and His example.  It means swapping your sin for His perfect righteousness.  Once His deposit has been made into your account, you are no longer your own.  You have been bought with a price.  You were once a slave to sin, but now have been made a slave to righteousness.  To follow Jesus means that you have submitted to His Lordship and live as a citizen of the Kingdom, but also as an heir to the throne. He said that following Him would cost you something.  In essence, it cost you everything.  So, to follow Him is spiritual human sacrifice.  You must die so that you can be raised up to walk in the newness of life in Him.

“Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  This is the cycle of the daily life of a Christian.  This is the sequence of a disciple of Jesus.  If we want to follow the Lord, we must first die to ourselves.  This is why I believe in human sacrifice, and as a Christian you should too.   If you have never experienced this type of life, then I hope you die today . . . so that you can truly live in the grace that abides only in Christ, who died in the place of all who would ever call upon His name.  Human sacrifice is not only desired by God, but is necessary to know Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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For 14 years, a song entitled “Hallelujah” that was made famous by Jeff Buckley has captured the hearts of millions of people.  It is simple, yet mesmerizing; many people have cherished and sung this melody.  It has been beloved by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  With just a brief listen to the lyrics, however, anyone who knows anything about the Bible may be confused by its story.  It does little for painting an accurate picture of the biblical narrative, and the “Hallelujahs” being sung do not seem to be pointed at the God of the Bible. The music for the song is beautiful, but the lyrics leave believers wanting more.

A few months back, videos of people singing this song were popping up all over social media.  On a challenge from a pastor, Heath Walton (a singer/songwriter from Roopville, Georgia) wrote some theologically sound lyrics to this ever so popular song.  He wrote the song in a few hours.  The new lyrics lay out the gospel message in a powerful way.  The first time I heard it, I wept with both joy and humility.  I wept because it was my story. If you are a Christian, it is your story too.  Jesus is firmly standing at the center of the song; the hero of it all.  In only 3 minutes, Heath writes about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.  He also writes of God’s wrath and how He merits grace upon all who believe.  It is a song that should cause the Christian to worship.

Today, I have put this song on YouTube with added visuals in hopes that during this Easter season you can be reminded of the Gospel both in song, in your ears, and through the pathway of your eyes.  I am not a video editor by trade, but I hope this is something that you can watch and enjoy while you think about Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection this Easter season.

If you like the song as much as I do, and would like to hear more from Heath, you can check out his music HERE

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

If you have been serious about your faith for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the old argument that goes something like this: “You claim that hearing about Jesus and believing in Him is the only way of salvation.  But if the spoken word of the Gospel of Jesus is the only way to be saved, then what happens to the innocent African tribesman when he dies?  He didn’t have a chance to be saved.  That is not fair.  And God is always fair.”

On its surface the argument seems compelling.  Why would God send innocent people to hell just because they didn’t believe a Gospel that they never heard?  Wouldn’t that concept make God some kind of narcissist?  Is He creating people just for the satisfaction of destroying them without giving them a hope of salvation?  I believe there is a good and biblical answer to this “African Tribesman” argument.  Here are a few thoughts . . .

First Things First:

As we begin to think about this subject, consider this question: Is there such a thing as a poor, innocent tribesman at all?  It depends.  It is all according to what you mean when you say “innocent.”  Are you talking about innocent before man or innocent before God?  These are two different questions.  Surely by man’s standards this poor fellow may be innocent, but that is not enough.  In fact, I believe the best way to answer this question is to reply, “There is no need to worry about the “innocent” African tribesman, because if he is truly innocent he will go to heaven.”  The problem with that question is that there are no innocent tribesmen anywhere on this planet, nor has there ever been.  Romans 3:23 plainly states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Therefore, if you are talking about God’s innocent, then a better way to phrase the question is this: Can the truth about God that the tribesman has access to (nature and conscience) provide, by itself, saving truth for the tribesman?  This is a question worth asking.  When asking this question, there are a few things consider.

On one hand, one can read Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”  In this we can see that creation itself cries out that there is a God.  But is that enough?  Does that truth produce enough evidence to provide salvation?

On the other hand, Luke writes in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  Luke’s point is that salvation is found only in Christ.  These two differing perspectives have become the basis for centuries of debate.  Are the sun, moon, stars and the rest of creation that cries out that there is a Master Creator enough to bring someone salvation?  Does someone have to hear the name of Christ and profess Him as Lord for salvation?

Two Definitions of Revelation:

“General Revelation” is the teaching that God has revealed himself through natural things that people can see, touch, and feel.  A person does not have to intimately know God to see these things.  This idea seems to echo the thought of passages such as Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-2.  Certainly general revelation dictates that humans have a responsibility to this revelation and to God.

“Special Revelation” is how God has chosen to reveal Himself through extraordinary means.  Special revelation includes physical appearances of God, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:6-8, Hebrews 1:1-3).

These doctrines taken together hold that that there is at least enough revelation of God in His general revealing to condemn a person for their disbelief.  The Bible claims that it takes special revelation for faith to be produced (Romans 10:17).   For centuries, the Church has held as its teaching that general revelation is insufficient for salvation.  This is where the Reformers came down on the issue.  This is where I stand as well.  There is no one who could stand before God and claim that they are innocent apart from Jesus’ blood.  Without the message of the Gospel in special revelation, one cannot be saved.

A Common Question:

There is almost zero Biblical support for the African Tribesman argument. Rather, simply put, God saves through Jesus and we need to tell people about Jesus.  So why is this argument so popular?  It’s because it hints at the great American question.  The question is, “Is God fair?”  Many people feel that it is unfair of God to send a person to hell, especially this poor tribesman.  But in God’s economy, if everyone got what was “fair” then we would all go to hell rightfully.  We have violated a holy God and deserve nothing but His wrath.  On the contrary, the Bible’s insistence on special revelation for salvation actually provides hope rather than damnation.  It is out of the surpassing love of God that He gives anyone general revelation.  It is out of His abundance of mercy and kindness that He reveals anything of Himself to us at all.  His general love is not just given to His children alone but to all.  Matthew 5:45 says, “. . . for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  His general revelation is a marvelous gift to the world.  Then the question of fairness should be answered with a resounding “NO!  God is NOT fair with us; He is gracious!”  And I, for one, am grateful that He is this way.  It is by grace that anyone is saved.  It is by grace that anyone has general revelation.  It is astonishing that He unfairly and graciously gives us that much.

Concluding Thoughts:

Let’s answer the question then, “Can the truth about God that the tribesman has access to provide, by itself, saving truth for the tribesman?”  The answer to that question is no.  General revelation does contain within itself truth about the God of salvation; indeed general revelation points toward the truths of salvation.  Just as John the Baptist was not the Messiah, but he pointed toward the Messiah.  His message proclaimed the truth about the Messiah, but it was not enough to save apart from Christ.  The same is true about general revelation.  General revelation contains truth about God, but only enough to condemn.  It takes special revelation to reveal the complete truth of salvation.  This should invigorate us to spread God’s gospel truth to everyone.  God has given us special revelation to share and we need to share it to every person and people group around the world.

If you would like to read a more in-depth understanding of this, please feel free to see more here The African Tribesman Debate.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Of all the hot button topics today, it seems none is hotter than homosexual marriage.  You can find examples of politicians, football players, actors, musicians, and even former mega church pastors (i.e. Rob Bell) chiming in with support for the normalization of homosexual marriage.  In fact, entire denominations have changed their doctrinal position to support this lifestyle.  In former days, Christians could attempt to take a neutral position on gay marriage.  However, it is so polarizing an issue today, soon (I believe within the next 5 years) we will know where everyone in the Christian community stands on this question.  I do not support the lifestyle of homosexuality for many reasons, and I am against making laws to normalize marriage between two persons of the same sex (the same goes for other marriage alternatives like a person who wants to marry multiple people or to marry an animal, etc.).  I believe the overwhelming evidence of scripture, church history, and nature is on my side.  The question I would like to answer then is: Why Does Biblical Marriage Matter To God, If It Indeed Does?

Consider these things:

Marriage is a picture of His love for us:

According to the Westminster Confession, the primary purpose of all life is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  I submit that this is also then the primary purpose of marriage, so the question becomes: What does a God-glorifying marriage look like?  The Bible has a lot to say here.  Scripture repeatedly symbolically refers to the relationship between Christ and the church as a marriage.  That relationship is seen in the Bride (The church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).  In the well-known verse Ephesians 5:25, Paul reminds us of what Jesus did for His bride: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  When dealing with a marriage, it is ALWAYS seen between one man and one woman in the Bible.  There is no counter-example.  The Word constantly shows us this picture from Genesis to Revelation.  There is a feminine person and a masculine person in this relationship.  Marriage is a picture of his covenant love for His church and that marriage is between The Man and his bride.

Marriage is part of the process of growing the kingdom:

Part of the original dominion mandate given to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)  Furthermore, we see this same mandate after the flood of Noah. (Genesis 9:7)  We see it again when the nation of Israel is born. (Genesis 35:11)  No less than 7 times this phrase “be fruitful and multiply” appears in Scripture.  Additionally, children are said to be “a blessing” in Psalm 127.  Here’s the point: part of the way of growing the kingdom of God is through procreation.  It does not take a scientist to know that it takes a male and a female for this process to happen.  If everyone decided to live the homosexual lifestyle, then we would only be one generation away from complete extinction.  How are we going to grow a kingdom if there is no one here to grow it?  Being fruitful and multiplying is a gift and a command from God.  Nature itself testifies to this.  Homosexual marriage and the homosexual lifestyle are anti-natural, and they are anti-kingdom growth.

Marriage is something that the Creator has already defined:

Are we allowed to rename the Mona Lisa, or even the iPhone if we wanted to?  No!  Why?  Because we did not create them, the naming rights belong to Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, respectively.  It makes sense that only the Creator has the right to define what something is and what something is not.  The Lord has said that the only true and biblical marriage that He recognizes is that of a marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).  Since He is the Creator of this world, He has every right to define what He created.  If I, or anyone else, tries to step in and take the place of God by calling something good that He has called evil (1 Corinthians 6:9), may they be cursed.  That seems harsh but those are not my words or my view, but God’s Words and His view.  May it be a loud warning for those who would dare do so (Isaiah 5:20).  If God has declared something holy, just, or right who are we to say otherwise?  He is the Creator and as Creator has every right to set the rules and regulations.  Hear me out, what is more amazing than the rules themselves is that He forbids things like homosexuality for the good of mankind.  He has declared marriage to be holy, good and beneficial only when it is between one man and one woman.  Anything outside of these confines is sin and is detestable to God.

Does marriage really matter to God?  I believe it most certainly does.  Do homosexuals matter to God?  They most certainly do.  They, like every other person in the world, still bear His image.  We as Christians should still love homosexuals as our neighbors.  We should still treat them with dignity, as we should every human being.  However, part of loving your neighbor is telling the truth to your neighbor.  If we really want to love our neighbor then we must love them enough to tell them that God has something to say about the matter of homosexuality.  He has offered them grace and mercy.  He has offered them salvation, but to gain these things there must be recognition of their sin.  There must be repentance of that sin.  There must be forgiveness for sin.  This is what a loving neighbor would say.  This is what a loving God has said.  This is what the God of marriage has proclaimed.  Marriage matters to God and it should matter to us as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell.