Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament can be tricky to some, but for others they can seem to find Him everywhere.  It is certainly not a game of Where’s Waldo, but finding Jesus is not always the easiest thing.  There are varying philosophies to seeing Jesus in the Old Testament text.  Some want to see him as a type in every narrative account.  Others want to only say He is there if there is a direct prophecy about him fulfilled in the New Testament.  I believe the best and most accurate way of seeing Jesus in these texts is to find a balance of both . . . that is to say to find Him in both portraits and  prophecies.

Jesus in portraits:

It can be a dangerous and unhelpful thing to allegorize every Old Testament text to find Jesus in it, but there are certainly many accounts that seem to picture Jesus clearly.  When you look at the sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, one would be hard pressed not to see Jesus there, since Paul says Jesus is that Lamb in I Corinthians 5:7.  We also can see Jesus in the prophet Moses when in Acts 7 Stephen makes the connection between the two.  When Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, according to John (John 3:14), that pointed to what Jesus was going to do on the cross.  David was clearly a type of Jesus as the king of his people. Jesus is the water that came from the rock in the wilderness (John 4:14). Just as it saved the people in the wilderness, it saves his people now.  But, not only was he the water, he too was the manna that fell from the sky.  In John 6:35 Jesus is said to be the bread of life.  This is the logical connection.  Typology has its weaknesses, but there are clear places in scripture where the text nearly demands it.

Jesus in prophecies:

According to what number of prophecies you believe in, Jesus fulfilled somewhere between 100-300 prophecies in his 33 plus years on earth.  There is no doubt where we find Jesus in these text.

  1. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was fulfilled in Luke 2.
  2. The Messiah will have a forerunner. (Malachi 3:1). This is fulfilled in John the Baptist which can be found in Matthew 3:1-3.
  3. The Messiah would make His triumphant entry riding on a donkey from Zechariah 9:9. This comes to fruition in Matthew 21:7, John 12:14-16.
  4. The Messiah would die by crucifixion. (Psalm 22, especially vv. 11-18). We see this fulfilled in Luke 23:33, Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, John 19:23.
  5. Those who arrested Him would cast lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18). This was fulfilled in Luke 23:34.

So, weather in portrait or in prophecy, there is no mistaking that Jesus is most certainly in the Old Testament.  It just takes a carful exegete to find where.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Is the Old Testament Really for Christians?

There is an old adage that goes like this, “I don’t need the Old Testament, just give me Jesus.”  Now, I must say, I am all about Jesus.  I want Jesus in every aspect of my life.  However, if truth be told, if you really want Jesus, then you need the Old Testament.  Over the next couple of posts I would like to give you some reasons why we as Christians should not just read the texts of the Old Testament, but love them as well.  I want us to find Jesus in these texts and see how to apply them in our own lives.  But today I would like to answer the question, why should Christians study the Old Testament.  There are many valid reasons for Christians to study the Old Testament, but I would like to give you just three.

Because you need it to understand the New Testament:

The reality is the whole Bible is one continuous story.  One does not pick up The Lord of the Rings and start reading two-thirds of the way through it.  No, if you want to understand the whole story you start in the Shire, not Mordor.  It is the same thing with the Bible.  One could not properly understand Jesus dying as the sacrificial Lamb without having a good understanding of Leviticus.  Jesus being King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes much more sense when you understand I Samuel – II Chronicles.  One reason that Christians should study the Old Testament is so that they can understand the whole story, and not just parts of it.

Because all of it is God-breathed scripture, not just the New Testament:

II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  The scripture that Paul was alluding to was actually the Old Testament canon.  While it is true that Paul says that Peter is writing scripture, and Peter says the same of Paul, the reality is all New Testament Christians primarily read the Old Testament as their Bible.  While some of the nuances of the books of Numbers or Daniel may be hard to apply for those standing on this side of the cross, the fact remains that all 39 books of the Old Testament are still “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  And for this reason, we should read it.

Because Jesus and the Apostles read it:

When Jesus quoted scripture, what did He use?  When the Ethiopian eunuch was looking for answers to who Jesus was, what was he reading?  When Paul was standing before King Agrippa explaining what Jesus had done for him, what did he quote?  When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, what text was he reading from?  The answer to all four of these questions is the Old Testament.  This was still the Bible of the day for these men.  Yes, Paul, Peter, John, Luke and others were in the process of being inspired themselves to write holy writ; but they primarily read, studied, and taught from the Old Testament.  If this was their primary text, doesn’t it stand to reason that we too should be reading it as well?

There are so many good reasons for us to both read and study the Old Testament.  We should not just look at it to learn lessons on how to have the faith of Abraham or how to be a Daniel in our generation in modern Babylon.  We have the law to point us to a Holy God.  We have poetry to teach us what to sing in worship.  And we have the prophets that give us a glimpse at how God progressively revealed himself.  So, if you have not read those glorious old accounts of how God dealt with his people (our people) in the pages of the Old Testament in a while, I encourage you to visit with God in the Garden . . . wrestle with the Angle of the Lord with Jacob . . . sing a song with David.  Why should we as New Testament believers read about the God that is on the other side of the cross?  Simply, He is the same God of the New Testament, and you don’t want to miss out on the whole story.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Where Have All The Good Men Gone? (And How Do We Get Them Back?)

There seems to be an epidemic.  For every single godly young man (18-35 years old) that I know, it seems that there are 10 young godly women.  Most of these women desire to be married, have children, and have a family.  Their problem?  There is a massive void of spiritually sound men who are ready for marriage.  Why is this so?  Why is it so hard for godly women to find a man who is willing to play the role that God has called them to as a spiritual leader?  Here are a few thoughts:

What Are Christian Men Supposed to Look Like?

There are 4 words that best describe the role of a man in a marriage: Prophet, Priest, Provider, Protector. (If you want to know more about the 4 “P’s”, please look here)

For a man to be ready to marry, he needs to be ready to be a Prophet in his home.  This means that he is to be on the front lines of speaking God’s truth into their home.  This is what a prophet does.  He speaks to his people on behalf of God.  Men do this by knowing God’s Word, regularly reading God’s Word, and applying God’s Word in the home.  It seems that there is a lack of knowledge of God’s Word by many young men, thus making it difficult to be a mature spiritual leader.

A man is also supposed to be a Priest.  That is to say that he is supposed to be going to the Lord on behalf of his family (wife, children).  Most often this is through prayer.  This does not mean simply praying before meals, but going before God as an advocate for your family.  Since many young men have never been taught how to pray (must less intercessory prayer), it is a part of their life that seems lacking.  To be a suitable mate one must be a man of prayer, and many do not seem to fit this mold.

A man is supposed to be a Provider as well.  Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”  It appears that so many young men today have yet to truly grow up.  Again, this is not across the board, but it is generally true of many.  Countless young men desire to buy the newest toy and live the college life well into their late 20’s.  Often after college they get a job but never learn how to manage their money well.  To provide for a family does not mean that someone has to earn $100k a year, but a good provider will learn how to budget well what the Lord has given them.  This means becoming much more selfless. There is, however, more to providing than finical support.  This also includes providing time to be with your family instead of “your boys.”  It is providing energy to your family, in being there for the families needs.  If a young man wants to be a godly man . . . he must be a provider.  After all, this is what the Lord has called you to do (I Timothy 5:8).

The last characteristic of a godly man is one that is a protector.  You do not have to wield a hammer and be an Avenger to protect your family.  Yes, you should be willing to lay your life down for your wife and children if need be, but there is so much more to protection than simply shielding them from physical danger.  A spiritual leader will protect his family from spiritual danger as well.  That means not letting filth into your head or into your home.  This may mean having to rethink your entertainment choices and places of leisure.  With statistics like 50% of men within the church have admitted to looking at porn on a regular basis, it is no wonder we have a lack of young men who are willing to be protectors; many of these men are not willing to protect themselves.  It is hard, takes courage, and sadly for some men is just too much work.

What is the solution?

  1. If you are a young man that falls into these categories then the first thing that you need to do is REPENT. I know that society has failed to train you in godliness.  I am sorry that it is possible that even your church has failed to train you in biblical manhood.  You may not have had a godly example in your home, but it is time to stop and ask the Lord to forgive you.  After that I would suggest three things.  First, find a godly man who can help to teach you how to be a godly man.  Meet with him often.  Ask questions and observe.   Second, make a bond with other young men to keep each other accountable in putting aside your childish ways and growing into maturity.   Third, pray not only for wisdom in how to change, but the will to change as well.
  1. If you are a parent of young men, then start treating them less like adolescents and more like young adults. We have an epidemic on our hands.  There is a solution, however.  Teach them from God’s Word that God has given them the responsibility to be a spiritual leader.  Teach them responsibility by giving them chores and holding them accountable to doing them.  Make them get outside and sweat.  Take their video games from them and give them a weed- eater instead.  Pray, Pray, Pray.  Satan would love nothing else than to teach them to be lazy and selfish, or to consume them in their “work” that they never learn what it means to be a spiritual leader.  Either one is a victory for him.  Pray for them, but also teach them now before they are out of your home and away from your influence.
  1. If you are a woman in search of a godly man, trust in the sovereign Lord to bring one to you at the right time. Do not compromise and settle for less.  You will regret it.  Until that time comes (if it comes), remember that your identity is not found in marriage to a man, but in your marriage to the Lord.  Continue to shape yourself into the likeness of Christ.  Submit yourself to that Husband (Jesus) first, and if the Lord chooses to give you an earthly one, you will be better prepared to take on the role of a loving wife.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

What Happened to American Christianity?

A quick look at church history in America will allow any student to see that the Reformation and the Enlightenment have both left distinguishing marks on contemporary Christianity in the United States.  The foundation of American Christianity has for its roots people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley.  However, just a few years into the American Experiment, the teachings of people like Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and even Voltaire were permeating the shores of this new and young nation.  Today we can see the teachings of all of these men (from Calvin to Kant) all across these great lands.  To understand contemporary American Christianity one must understand the influence these two movements in church history have had on this nation.  This will be a two part blog.  The first one will give a little background on how were got to where we are.  The second will explain why I have hope in the American Church. Let’s take a moment to look at our history and how we got to where we are today.

The Reformation:

Modern America owes its life to the Reformation.  “The story of America is literally the story of the Reformation,” says Peter Lillback.  The Pilgrims desired to be able to worship freely.  This desire was derived from their understanding of Christianity based upon Reformation teachings.  The Puritans desired to have a society that was ruled solely by Scripture.  America quickly became a Protestant wonderland.  This is one of the reasons that we have so many different Protestant churches in America today.  A quick survey of Protestantism in the U.S. in the 21st century would find more than 200 different denominations.  We see hundreds of Bible Colleges and Seminaries today because of the strong push for Christian education that was brought about because of the Reformation.  We see many of our early laws in America founded on Biblical principles (“All men are created equal”, “The Church protected from state control”, warnings against kings but in favor of Godly rulers).  These were all Reformation ideas.  This is because the Bible was important to the Reformation and to American society.  This is due to the Reformation’s teaching of Sola Scriptura and the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.  Without the Reformation America would be completely different than it is today.  The Reformation’s influence was great, and it still lives on today.

The Enlightenment:

Secondly, we find the importance of the Enlightenment on American culture.  Karl Barth characterized this movement as “a system founded upon the presupposition of faith in the omnipotence of human ability.”  This is a very good description of the Enlightenment.  It was a movement with its deepest tenant being the rational mind.  It based everything on reason.  Most often it rejected both supernatural revelation and man’s sinfulness.  This way of thinking greatly influenced much of society (especially those of higher education) in America.  It influenced several of our founding documents.  The Declaration of Independence, for instance, is seen by some as an embodiment or culmination of Enlightenment ideas such as liberty, democracy, republicanism, and religious tolerance.  There are some good things (democracy, religious tolerance) that came into the political arena because of the Enlightenment; however, it did much damage to the church as well.  This period was riddled with skepticism about the reliability of the Bible, the church, and many important doctrines.  It gave rise to many liberal denominations and sects of Christianity that have done much harm to the body of Christ.  There is no doubt that the Enlightenment has had a major influence on modern American culture.  Politically, there have been some good things; religiously, you would be hard pressed to find anything positive to say about this period for the church.

There is no doubt that these two movements have had more influence than any other in American history.  In the early stages of America, the Reformation was more important when looking at its influence on the forming of our country.  However, in modern day America, I believe the ideas of the Enlightenment have had a bigger influence than that of the Reformation.  It seems that much of America has become more humanistic in their thinking and way of life.  This is a direct influence of Enlightenment thinking.  This may not have been the intention of some of our early American fathers, but when taken to its logical conclusion it is easy to see why we now have legalized abortion on demand and the Supreme Court deliberating the idea of legal gay “marriage” nationwide.  Reason from a fallen mind and fallen heart is incomplete.  Mental reason is one of the good things that was brought to light during the Enlightenment, but when it is separated from an omnipotent God who has given us a supreme authority to go by (the Bible), a person’s reason is limited and will eventually fail because of its fallen nature.  Enlightenment thinking is ruining our country, and it is ruining our church.  When God’s Word is not considered authoritative, anything can go.  It is time that we return to what made us a great country.  What made us a great country was the Source of our reasoning (i.e. a creator God who was intimately involved with His people).  The Reformation redirected our minds to God and His Word.  This is what our country was built on.  This is why, I believe, the Lord blessed our nation for so long.  While the Enlightenment may be the ruler of today in contemporary American culture, I pray one day soon the heart of the Reformation will rise again within the Church, the Lord will bless the prayers of His people, and make us a great country again for His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

A Simple and Helpful Way to Teach Your Children about God

If you are a Christian parent then you have a responsibility to “. . . bring your children up in the fear and admonition of God,” (Eph. 6:4).  With school, baseball practice, piano recitals, and a hundred other things that fill our weekly calendars, the thought of discipling our own children might seem like just one more thing on our never-ending list to get done.  After all, you take your children to Sunday school, right?  Isn’t that hour a week enough to train them in the things of God?  Taking your children to church is a wonderful thing.  It is absolutely part of the process of discipleship.  However, God is actually going to hold you as parents responsible for training your children in righteousness as well, and not just the church.  This may sound like a daunting task as a parent.  I have heard people say, “Where do I even start?  I don’t know a lot about the Bible myself.”  Rest assured, if this is you then you are not alone.  This is a common position for many parents that I have dealt with over the years, but I would like to give you a helpful tool that can aid you in this wonderful process.

One of the ways parents have taught their children about scripture throughout church history is by a process known as catechizing.  Don’t let this word scare you if you don’t know what it means.  It is simply a method of memorization.  It is a form of question and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.  The church has produced many of these different catechisms throughout the years.  We find this way of teaching all through scripture (Exodus 13:8-9, Deuteronomy 4:9).  It is especially good for young child to learn, since they have such a great mental capacity at this age.  It is amazing to see how quickly my 4 and 5 year old children memorize these great truths of God; often before I even have them down.  They may not have the full understanding of what the answers mean, but we are trusting that in time the Lord awakens them to these great realities.

Below, I have attached a link to what I believe is a great catechism for you and your family to get started with.  It was written for young children, but as a parent, it even helps me to have very precise answers without having to memorize entire paragraphs to explain what I believe.  My encouragement for you is to print off 10 of these questions at a time.  Decide, as a family, to memorize one a week.  It is easy while at breakfast or dinner to go over the questions.  Build upon them each week.  Ask the old questions, as you are leaning a new one.  If you do this, within a year’s time, you and you children can know more than 50 great doctrines of the Bible.  It will take less than 5 minutes a day to do, but the wealth of knowing these truths is invaluable.  If we can teach our children to hit a ball, or set a table, we can certainly teach them (and ourselves simultaneously) great truths of God in bite-sized and digestible chunks.

I hope you will consider using this resource with your children in the coming weeks.  You may be surprised how much they can learn in a short amount of time.  There are many wonderful catechisms out there, but I believe this is the best one to get started with.  God bless!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

A CATECHISM FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

A reason to sing and shout Hallelujah, in a new way.

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

Enough with the African Tribesman Already! What happens when he dies?

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

What’s the Big Deal About Homosexual Marriage and the Bible?

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.

“Now that’s a good movie!” . . . or is it? How to discern what is okay in entertainment.

In 2012, the average American making 50k a year spent over $2600 on entertainment.  That is about $200 a month.  That is more than the average person gives to charity annually.  We are entertained in many different ways; movies, music, games, sports, etc.   Americans spend more time and money on entertainment today than any other nation in the history or the world.  We like to be entertained.  There is nothing wrong with being entertained.   In fact, if the Westminster Catechism is correct stating that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” then good godly entertainment is certainly one way we can enjoy Him.  However, not all (or even most) entertainment that we spend money on today falls under the “godly entertainment” category.  Let us not say, on the other hand, that all entertainment must be inherently Christian for Christians to partake in and enjoy.

Is it okay to watch and enjoy a football, soccer, or baseball game without feeling sinful?  Most certainly!  Nevertheless, there is also a way to watch these things and it be sinful, depending on your motive.  How are we to discern what to watch and listen to in the way of entertainment?  I believe the Philippians 4:8 test is the best way to do this.  Paul wrote,

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Before you turn on The Game of Thorns or Downton Abby, and before you download that new Taylor Swift album, take this test and hopefully you will be able to see if you should be spending your time, money, and energy on it.  Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions.

Is it True?

Can this (movie, book, TV program, etc.) be found in God’s Word as something that is true?  For example, can you listen to a love song not written by a Christian? I would say yes, as long as it is something that lines up with the truth of God, and is not distorting it.  If it lines up with the truth that is found in scripture and your conscience allows . . why not?  Remember that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.

Is it Honorable?

This is to say, is it something that is honorable to God?  Is it something where people are making light of sex? Then no, this is not honorable. Is it a game that glorifies violence? Again, I would say no, that is not honorable. What about a book that makes you lust after its character?  Is that honorable? NO!  You get the point.

Is it Just?

Is this something that is in harmony with God’s Word?  What about music that is glorifying getting drunk or songs where the singer is bragging about themselves?  I don’t think these are things that are justifiable to the Lord.  And what about watching some kid being beat up on YouTube?  Sorry, I don’t think that is justifiable entertainment either.

Is it Pure?

Is this promoting good or godly morals?  Is the music video, TV show, or movie that is showing people making out in a provocative way okay?  The question is, how is watching this going to make you more pure?  Peering through a window watching a couple make out would be a good way to have yourself arrested wouldn’t it?  There is not much difference in watching it on TV.  If it is not pure, you do not need to be entertained by it.

Is it Lovely?

Is this pleasing, kind, or gracious?  Is it okay to read a good hearted story about someone overcoming adversity?  Sure, we all love to hear these kinds of stories.  Actually, it often points us to the gospel.  There are plenty of feel good movies and books that are not overtly Christian that fall into this category.  However, if it is not pleasing, kind, or gracious, then the Philippians 4:8 test would say to “not think on these things.”  It is inevitable that you will have to face things that are not lovely in your life, but to openly be entertained by them is a different matter.

Is it Commendable?

Is it respectful?  Is it of high character?  Is this something that you could recommend to your friends or a Christian family?  I love war movies.  My all time favorite is Braveheart (but only the edited version).  I have recommended it to many people over the years.  However, there are some songs, articles, TV shows, and movies that could never fall under this category that I have been sinfully amused by in the past.  If you would not be willing tore commend it to your pastor, there is a great chance the Lord would not want you to participate in being entertained by it either.

These seven questions have helped guide me into making better choices in entertainment for my family.  They apply to movies, music, books, and even sporting events.  I love all sorts of entertainment. So, if Paul can quote a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) and it become part of the canon, it seems to be okay to be entertained by things that are not distinctly Christian as well as long as they fall into the above listed guidelines.  The next time you want to run to the theater to watch the newest flick, or click to download the newest album on iTunes . . . take the Philippians 4:8 test first and see if it is something the Lord would be okay with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Let’s face it: tattoos are more popular now than they have ever been. Roughly 21% of all adults in America are said to have at least one tattoo. In the last 30 years they have become more culturally accepted than at any other time in history. At one time they were considered to be a sign of rebellion, but now they are seen as more of a sign of self-expression. Formerly, they were only for sailors and ruffians, but now doctors, lawyers, and even pastors are frequenting tattoo shops to get inked. The question is, while it may be more popular and more accepted now than ever, is it something that Christians should participate in? To be upfront, I have 4 tattoos myself.  I got them all before the age of 21, and now that I am older and more mature in my faith I wish I had not gotten them. While I am not ashamed of the content of the tattoos, I simply wish I had not done it.  This does not expressly mean it is wrong for everyone, especially the Christian. In short, scripture is not clear-cut on the issue of tattooing, but the Bible does say some things that may guide you in a better understanding of tattoos for yourself.

The Leviticus Argument:

There is only one place that the word tattoo is used in scripture. We find it in Leviticus 19:28. Most English translations render it this way, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.”  While the word tattoo is not in the original language (“mark your body” is the best translation) the idea of it certainly is.  So, shouldn’t this be enough to end the argument? Scripture says it right? To understand this scripture it must be put into its context. According to your view of Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT law, a different argument could be made here. I (along with most of the Church over the past 500 years) hold to a moral law perspective: Only the moral laws still apply from the OT. I believe scripture supports that Jesus fulfilled this temporary law that was given specifically to the nation of Israel for a specific time. Leviticus 19:28 was a specific law for a specific people with a specific purpose. The law was intended to set Israel apart from cultural Egypt that was known for tattooing themselves for their dead. Tattoos were seen as an offering to the gods who ruled the dead. Thus, when the Lord brought his people out of the land, he told them not to tattoo. If in Christ the law has already been paid for and no longer binding on Christians, then Leviticus 19:28 does not seem to aid in the discussion on modern tattooing for the Christian. The Levitical argument used by some to forbid tattooing does not seem to hold much weight.

The I Corinthians 6 Argument:

Once we become Christians, we give ourselves over to the Lord, including our bodies. Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The context of this has to do with joining oneself to a prostitute; however, there seems to be many implications for this truth as well. Every act of fornication, or any other sin committed by the believer in the “temple” was/is a very big deal. In the Old Testament, the High Priest would enter only once a year, and only after extensive cleansing, or he would be struck down by the Lord.  A case could be made to say that tattooing your body is a defilement of the temple. But if you go down that road too far, you could make that argument for eating unhealthy food, for piercing your ears, for smoking, and so on. The list is endless. Therefore, we need not make fast and overarching laws based on 1 Corinthians 6.  Nevertheless, the “temple” mandate of this text is enough for me personally to never get another tattoo.  I don’t believe this Scripture can be made into a mandated law for all Christians. While it does aid in the narrative, the argument from 1 Corinthians 6 is not an end-all on the discussion of Christians and tattoos.

Discernment in Tattooing: 

Since scripture does not have a clear stance on the subject, how then are we to discern whether it is lawful for a Christian to get a tattoo?  I would suggest asking a few questions before you ever get stuck with the needle.

1.  What is your motive? If it is to “stick it” to your parents or another authority (pun intended), then Ephesians 6 would forbid it. If you are trying to draw attention to yourself (pun intended), then James 4:6 does not seem to support that view either. If there is a way to draw attention to Jesus and him alone, then this is the only motive I can see that the Lord would accept.

2.  Have you prayed about it? There is much that can be discerned through prayer. God has told us to commit all things unto him (Psalm 37:5). Before you do something as permanent as a tattoo, it would be wise to seek the Lord’s blessing on it.

 3.  Is this going to glorify God? The content of your tattoo is very important if you decide the Lord has permitted you to get one. It should be something that is glorifying God.  After all, I Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you don’t know the answer to that, then let me suggest you wait until you have a definitive answer. Remember, “DO ALL THINGS,” this includes tattoos.

4.  Will 45 year old you regret this Tattoo? – Many regret ever getting them.  Will you?

5.  Money, Message, Placement – these are all practical things you need to consider as well.  Is it good stewardship? What does it say to others about you? Will I be able to get a job if I am showing this tattoo off?

Does the Bible have a clear answer on the subject of tattoos?  No, but there does seem to be some good guidelines in Scripture. Ultimately, the decision is up to the person getting one. It does need to be an informed decision not one made out of ignorance. Finally, the law of liberty (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8) must be applied I believe. Nevertheless Paul’s words, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” should ring in our ears when searching through this subject. For myself, my conscience would never allow me to get another one. If you are considering getting one and you are a Christian, I would suggest doing your research . . . and more importantly seeking the Lord for your answer.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell