“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."
If you ask an unbeliever, "What is two plus two?", he will respond, "Four." Is it ever anything other than four? Of course not, he will say. So ask now, "Where does the sun rise?" "In the east," he will tell you. Does it always rise in the east? Never the west, or appear in the center of the sky? "How silly!" he will probably say.
Yet, he will play the lottery, expecting that luck will eventually pay off for him. Or ask the origins of the world around him, and he will unthinkingly respond,"Chance." And he will say it without any consciousness of the logical tension between that belief and his earlier statements.
My point is this: the world operates according to laws, predictable laws. That is because it was created by a God of laws. The very predictability of the universe is a consistent evidence of the hand of God. However, the unbeliever covers his eyes at that evidence, even as he admits the particular examples that he himself acknowledges.
This is what Paul talks about in Romans 1:18-22, especially 18b, "by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth." To acknowledge the God Who made them would force the unbeliever to acknowledge that he is in rebellion against Him, and deserving of His judgment. That he can never permit! And it is this that the Christian confronts in apologetics and evangelism.
I have written several times on the issue of abortion. See, for example, here, here, and here. My friends are often amazed at my vigorous opposition to legalized abortion, because my social views tend to be quite liberal. However, as I see it, we are talking about the extermination of innocents here!
Recently, our state legislature passed the "Women's Right to Know Act," which required a waiting period and an ultrasound before permitting an abortion. Governor Beverly Perduevetoed that bill on June 27. Her reasons are astounding! Madame Governor believes that the bill had two fundamental flaws: it interfered in the relationship between a woman and her doctor, and it failed to respect women's judgment.
Let's consider that first objection, that the bill interferes in the relationship between a woman and her doctor. North Carolina also has laws establishing insurance regulations, restricting access to prescriptions, requiring medical licensing, and banning medical marijuana. Does Madame Governor suggest that the state doesn't already interfere in the relationship between a woman (and man) and her doctor?
Her second objection, that the law fails to respect women's judgment, is even more laughable! North Carolina bans the use of midwives for the delivery of babies (unless they are otherwise licensed healthcare workers). So the state has criminalized a major choice for women during childbirth. The state restricts access to alcohol, tobacco, and certain drugs. Don't those laws "fail to respect women's judgment"?
I must seriously question the judgment of this one woman, my state's governor, when she won't let a woman buy a joint, or even have a beer without state approval, yet she objects to mere information for a woman contemplating killing an unborn child. That is a seriously disturbed order of priorities!
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" -Isaiah 5:20
While it wasn't their only motivation to prayer, both Martin Luther and John Knox gave much attention to the commandments to pray.
Luther focused on the Third Commandment (Second Commandment according to the Lutheran division): "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). According to Luther's understanding of this commandment, not taking the name of Jehovah in vain is a negative way of commanding that we are to use it only according to His word. Lack of prayer means not taking His name as He desires, and thus is a violation of this commandment.
On the other hand, Knox developed his position from a wider range of texts: Psalm 50:14-15, Matthew 7:7-11, Matthew 26:41, I Thessalonians 5:17, and I Timothy 2:13, 8. In his "Treatise on Prayer," Knox explained, "He who, when necessity constrains, desires not support and help of God, does provoke His wrath no less than such as make false gods or openly deny God." Thus, in Knox's mind, lack of prayer is tantamount to paganism or atheism!
Both men said - and I want to emphasize - that they did not mean the Christian of frail conscience who struggles to overcome his sense of unworthiness when approaching the throne of grace. We are unworthy! Anyone who approaches God on the basis of his own worthiness doesn't understand his sinful state nor the necessity of the atonement in Christ. However, for the believing sinner, that atonement covers his unrighteousness, so that he can come before a loving Father God. Consider the text that I would add to the list above, Hebrews 10. Consider especially Hebrews 10:14 and Hebrews 10:19-23.
"As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority."
About 90% of Americans are professing Christians. In fact, Islamists often refer to that fact, along with American materialism and immorality, as supposed evidence of what Christians are really like. I suggest that not only are they wrong, but that the profession of Christianity is based on self-deception.
In any discussion, that is, of the sort that we call "water-cooler" conversations, whatever the topic, how common is it to refer to the biblical standards for judging the matter? In fact, there is even a presumption that most subjects, e.g., economics, politics, education, employment, family, have no distinct Christian evaluation or solution. They are considered spiritually neutral. But that view itself is contrary to Scripture.
Look at I Corinthians 1:18-25. Look especially at the second half of verse 20, "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" Where is the wisdom of God found? Jesus Himself tells us (John 17:17): "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." The foundation of truth is the Word of God, not some supposed common ground we share with unbelievers.
In fact, "neutrality" is exactly the presumption of unbelief. The average American believes that there is a god (note lower-case "g"), while simultaneously believing that he/she/it is irrelevant to life. This is properly labeled "Deism," not Christianity. In other words, while most Americans label themselves Christian, they are in error. The true national religion of America is Deism!
Paul gives the contrasting position in Colossians 2, quoted above. He gives the contrast between naturalist precepts and biblical faith, which is founded on the deity of Christ. He uses that principle himself in his sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Look especially at Acts 17:28: "In Him we live and move and have our being." Our lives exist in God's world, under His laws, according to His plans, whether we are willing or not. There is no neutrality here; rather, there is only truth contrasted with error. In fact, biblically-speaking, unbelief isn't neutral. In Romans 1:18-21, Paul warns us that unbelievers "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth," and are "futile in their thinking." To seek common ground with them is to seek futility, the very opposite of rationality!
"Then the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' And He answered them, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them."'"
I am currently reading "The Battle Belongs to the Lord" by Westminster Seminary Professor and Reformed Apologist K. Scott Oliphint. Recently, a short phrase stood out in a remarkable way: "Unbelief is designed to miss the obvious." First, I just kind of nodded in agreement. Then I felt a more vehement, "Y'know, that is so true!" Then various scriptures on the issue started to come to mind.
First was the one quoted above, which comes immediately after Jesus gave the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The Disciples asked Jesus why he told truths to the people in obscure stories. Notice His response above (verse 11): "to them it has not been given." It wasn't coincidental that the truth was obscured to them, but intentional! But why? Verse 15 tells us, "For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them." The truth was withheld from them as punishment for the very hardness of their hearts which first hated the truth! This is commonly referred to as "judicial hardening."
Then I thought of the Apostle Paul, in Romans 1:18, the second half of the verse, which reads, "men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." Unbelievers don't merely ignore or avoid the truth, they activelysuppress it. They seek to bury it, so that their wickedness can reign unchallenged!
Then the Prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 7:11-12): "They refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts." Then the next verse (Zechariah 7:13) gives His reaction: "'As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,' says the Lord of hosts." The hardness of the hearts of the reprobate brings the judgment of the hardness of God's heart toward them. That is a frightening truth!
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43