Friday, February 24, 2012

Why are there so many tragedies among celebrities?

Suicides, drug overdoses (whether illicit or prescription), divorces, alcoholism, financial disasters – why are tragedies like these seemingly common among celebrities? Why do many celebrities, some of whom are relatively intelligent and good people, make such complete disasters of their lives? There is no single answer that definitively applies to each and every celebrity tragedy, but if there is an explicit biblical answer, it is one word – pride.

The most powerful biblical example of a “fall from grace” is Satan. Listen to Ezekiel’s description of Satan before his fall: “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you…your settings and mountings were made of gold” (Ezekiel 28:12-13). What happened to Satan? “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17). Isaiah expands on the cause of Satan’s fall: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13-14). Rather than honoring and worshipping the God who created him and gave him beauty, Satan became proud, essentially worshipping himself.

What is the end result? “All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more” (Ezekiel 28:19). “But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate” (Isaiah 14:15-16). The messages of Isaiah and Ezekiel regarding the fate of Satan sound remarkably similar to some of the tragedies that have occurred among celebrities in recent years.

Why is pride such a problem? Proverbs 16:18 declares, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride causes people to forget God (Hosea 13:6). Pride causes some celebrities to forget that God was the one who gave them the talents and skills they possess. Pride causes celebrities to have too high a view of themselves, to think they are worthy of all the adulation they receive. Arrogant pride results in celebrities thinking they cannot be deceived and therefore putting trust in very untrustworthy people. Too high a view of self leads to some celebrities believing they are beyond the possibility of failure and thereby making extremely foolish decisions with their lives, careers, relationships, marriages, finances, etc.

Ultimately, the issue is this – human beings are not spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically designed to receive worship. Only God is worthy of worship, and only God can receive worship without it perverting His “psyche.” When celebrities worship themselves or allow others to worship them, it results in arrogant pride and self-centeredness, which leads to disaster and tragedy.

It is important to remember that these sort of tragedies are not limited to celebrities. "Average" and "ordinary" people experience the same tragedies. The difference is that the tragedies are not proclaimed in the tabloids and discussed in the news. You do not have to be a celebrity to be controlled by self-centeredness, arrogance, and vanity. We are all subject to these temptations and failures (1 Corinthians 10:13). Celebrities face an extra measure of temptation due to the adulation they receive, but again, the same tragedies that beset celebrities also happen every day in the lives of "ordinary" people.

What is the cure? The cure is to give God the glory He alone deserves. The fix is to have a biblical self-image, recognizing that we are valuable because we are created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), not because of anything we have accomplished “on our own.” The solution is to refuse to be worshipped, as the holy angels do (Revelation 19:10; 22:9), and instead to deflect any and all worship and adulation to God, who alone is worthy. The key is recognizing that we are who Romans 3:10-23 says we are and praising God for being the merciful, gracious, and loving God that He is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is God's love conditional or unconditional?

God’s love, as described in the Bible, is clearly unconditional in that His love is expressed toward the objects of His love (i.e., His people) despite their disposition toward Him. In other words, God loves because it His nature to love (1 John 4:8), and that love moves Him toward benevolent action. The unconditional nature of God’s love is most clearly seen in the gospel. The gospel message is basically a story of divine rescue. As God considers the plight of His rebellious people, He determines to save them from their sin, and this determination is based on His love (Ephesians 1:4-5). Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words from his letter to the Romans:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die” (Romans 5:6-8).

Reading through the book of Romans, we learn that we are alienated from God due to our sin. We are at enmity with God, and His wrath is being revealed against the ungodly for their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20). We reject God, and God gives us over to our sin. We also learn that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and that none of us seeks God, none of us does what is right before His eyes (Romans 3:10-18).

Despite this hostility and enmity we have toward God (for which God would be perfectly within His rights to utterly destroy us), God reveals His love toward us in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the propitiation (i.e., an appeasement of God’s righteous wrath) for our sins. God did not wait for us to get our collective acts together as a condition of atoning for our sin. Rather, God condescended to become a man and live among His people (John 1:14). God experienced our humanity—everything it means to be a human being—and then offered Himself willingly as a substitutionary atonement for our sin.

This divine rescue mission results in a gracious act of self-sacrifice. As Jesus says in John’s gospel: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is precisely what God, in Christ, has done. The unconditional nature of God’s love is made clear in two more passages from Scripture:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

It is important to note that God’s love is a love that initiates; it is never a response. That is precisely what makes it unconditional. If God’s love were conditional, then we would have to do something to earn or merit it. We would have to somehow appease His wrath and cleanse ourselves of our sin before God would be able to love us. But that is not the biblical message. The biblical message—the gospel—is that God, motivated by love, moved unconditionally to save His people from their sin.

Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson

Thursday, February 9, 2012

If I am saved and all of my sins are forgiven, why not continue to sin?

The apostle Paul answered a very similar question in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The idea that a person could “trust in Jesus Christ” for salvation and then go on living just as he/she lived before, is absolutely foreign to the Bible. Believers in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit changes us from producing the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) to producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Christian life is a changed life because the Christian is changed.

What differentiates Christianity from every other religion is that Christianity is based on what God has done for us through Jesus Christ—divine accomplishment. Every other world religion is based on what we must do to earn God's favor and forgiveness—human achievement. Every other religion teaches that we must do certain things and stop doing certain other things in order to earn God's love and mercy. Christianity, faith in Christ, teaches that we do certain things and stop doing certain things because of what Christ has done for us.

How could anyone, having been delivered from sin's penalty, eternity in hell, go back to living the same life that had him on the path to hell in the first place? How could anyone, having been cleansed from the defilement of sin, desire to go back to the same cesspool of depravity? How could anyone, knowing what Jesus Christ did on our behalf, go on living as if He were not important? How could anyone, realizing how much Christ suffered for our sins, continue sinning as if those sufferings were meaningless?

Romans 6:11-15 declares, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

For the truly converted, then, continuing to live sinfully is not an option. Because our conversion resulted in a completely new nature, our desire is to no longer live in sin. Yes, we still sin, but instead of wallowing in it as we once did, we now hate it and wish to be delivered from it. The idea of “taking advantage” of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by continuing to live sinfully is unthinkable. If a person believes himself to be a Christian and still desires to live the old, sinful life, he has reason to doubt his salvation. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Executive (Marketing Male)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What is a Christian worldview?

A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important.

An apple sitting on a table is seen by several people. A botanist looking at the apple classifies it. An artist sees a still-life and draws it. A grocer sees an asset and inventories it. A child sees lunch and eats it. How we look at any situation is influenced by how we look at the world at large. Every worldview, Christian and non-Christian, deals with at least these three questions:

1) Where did we come from? (and why are we here?)
2) What is wrong with the world?
3) How can we fix it?

A prevalent worldview today is naturalism, which answers the three questions like this: 1) We are the product of random acts of nature with no real purpose. 2) We do not respect nature as we should. 3) We can save the world through ecology and conservation. A naturalistic worldview generates many related philosophies such as moral relativism, existentialism, pragmatism, and utopianism.

A Christian worldview, on the other hand, answers the three questions biblically: 1) We are God’s creation, designed to govern the world and fellowship with Him (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15). 2) We sinned against God and subjected the whole world to a curse (Genesis 3). 3) God Himself has redeemed the world through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15; Luke 19:10), and will one day restore creation to its former perfect state (Isaiah 65:17-25). A Christian worldview leads us to believe in moral absolutes, miracles, human dignity, and the possibility of redemption.

It is important to remember that a worldview is comprehensive. It affects every area of life, from money to morality, from politics to art. True Christianity is more than a set of ideas to use at church. Christianity as taught in the Bible is itself a worldview. The Bible never distinguishes between a “religious” and a “secular” life; the Christian life is the only life there is. Jesus proclaimed Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, in doing so, became our worldview.

Recommended Resource: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland