The Earliest Possible Age

Posted: 29 March, 2019 in Uncategorized

Every Christian parent wants to see their children grow up to believe the gospel and receive salvation. In fact, for true believers, this should rank quite high in our prayer priorities!

In addition, we would love to see our children saved sooner, rather than later. This way, they waste fewer years living in rebellion to their Creator, have fewer regrets, enjoy a longer relationship with the Lord, grow in their knowledge of Him and His Word, and have fewer opportunities to cause us heartache.

A very common way of praying for a child’s early salvation is, “Father, please save little Benjamin at the earliest possible age.”

I would love to see Christian parent’s dropping this phrase sooner rather than later. Now, naturally, in discussions like this, one can be accused of nit-picking. That is not at all my intention. I fully understand the desire to see one’s offspring serving the Lord from a young age. I also appreciate how frequently we can adopt phrases which roll off our tongues without having given them much thought.

I do, however, firmly believe that we need to ditch this phrase like a stolen getaway car – at the earliest possible opportunity. The reason is that words matter. Whether or not we have given any conscious thought to the words we speak or hear, the fact is that they influence our thinking. My concern is that the more we say, “at the earliest possible age,” the more we may begin to actually believe that there is an, “earliest possible age,” at which God can save our children.

You will search in vain to find a passage in Scripture which teaches that humans can only be born again after a certain age.

Probably the closest you come is Isaiah 7:15-16 which says, “He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”

But knowing how to refuse evil and choose good has nothing to do with regeneration. In fact, we know that the Law, and being able to choose between good and evil, always results in us choosing the evil. “Through the law comes knowledge of sin.” For an example of someone being saved at a very young age, just look at John the Baptist, who according to Luke 1:15 would be, “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

There are many more texts which seem to indicate that God values children highly and would see them saved (Deut 6:7; Malachi 2:15; Matt 19:14; Luke 17:2)

Children are born into this world as sinners, with a broken, sinful nature inherited from their father Adam, so the need for regeneration is there from the start. There is the truth that, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48) so moral culpability does increase with age, but the real issue is not how aware you are of your sin, the issue is, who is your representative? The fact is that the Lord is not bound to wait until our children reach a certain age in order to give them new hearts. He can do that whenever He pleases.

God has declared Himself to be, “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deut 5:9-10)

And, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Pro 22:6)

By placing your children into your family, a believing home, where the gospel is savored and taught, God has already blessed them with so much grace. God shows steadfast love to thousands of generations of those who love Him. So let’s not be waiting for the magical day when God can now give them a “Damascus Road” salvation experience. Let’s not be wondering whether they are old enough to understand. Let’s be training them to confess and repent of their sin, and ask for forgiveness from a young age. God is the one who saves – Salvation is of the Lord (Rev 7:10), and He can save our kids at any age. As Jonathan said, “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” and I would just extend that principle to say that nothing can hinder the Lord from saving at a very tender age, or a wizened old age.

Every age is possible for salvation!

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Most people know the story of Jonah. “Jonah’s that guy in the Bible that got swallowed by the whale, right?”

Well… No. It was some sort of fish, not necessarily a whale, and to make Jonah the story of a fish is to miss the point in a big way.

So Jonah was told by God to go to the pagan city of Nineveh and preach about their impending destruction which was coming upon them because God had taken note of their evil.

Instead of Jonah obeying the command to go and preach, he tries to flee from the presence of the Lord, and lands up on a ship heading to Tarshish.

While asleep on the ship, God, “hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, ‘What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.'” (Jonah 1:4-6 ESV)

As I read this account today, I noticed how these mariners were petrified of death. “Well, obviously, Sherlock – everyone is afraid of dying!” you may be thinking. That’s just what I was thinking, actually. Fear of death is basically a universal human experience. These sailors clearly had a conception of a god and eternity, and so it is unsurprising that they should feel such panic. The strange thing is – in a materialistic world where life is simply a product of time + matter + chance, such as the one we supposedly live in today there really is nothing to fear about death.

Yes, nobody in their right mind wants to experience pain, and we can imagine that many ways of dying must be painful. But let’s separate the fear of pain from the fear of death for a moment. There are many conceivable ways of dying which would be totally painless. If this is the case, and death is simply a complete cessation of an individual’s existence, what is there to fear about that?

After death there is no pain, or regret, or longing, or missing of loved ones. You just cease to exist. Yes, it’s a massive “unknown” which could make one uncomfortable. But fear – that’s actually irrational – a fact picked up by some of the ancient philosophers!

Someone will respond: “You’re forgetting that fear of death and the instinct for self-preservation are basic necessities for the continuation of life, and survival of the human species. Fear of death is an evolutionary advantage.”

This makes a lot of sense at first glance of course, but on further reflection it becomes obvious that a society quite often has a greater chance of survival because of the sacrifice of a few brave defenders who are able to subordinate their fear of death to a higher priority, whatever that may be. Even if we analyse the fear of death as being advantageous on an individual basis, we are still not able to explain the terror. There is perhaps no other fear which has a greater icy grip on the heart of man, than the fear of death. It is a horror, something to be dreaded and avoided at any and all costs.

My assertion in this article is that man’s fear of death is yet another evidence of his absolute certainty of immortality and the existence of God. The knowledge of God is the only plausible, coherent way to explain this undeniable terror of death which arises in the heart of even the bravest warrior.

Man knows, he may have buried this knowledge deep down and spent a lifetime suppressing and denying it, but every man knows that there is a God to whom he is accountable.

He knows that despite the lies he has tried to convince himself to believe, he falls short of the righteousness required by God and will stand naked in his sin before God after death.

He may not know the details, but he has a primal, an instinctive certainty that death is not the end. It is this fact which scares him above all. He may not be able to articulate it, or pin it down, but it is there behind the dread.

Romans 1:18-23

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling birds and animals and reptiles.”

 

I said that the fear of death is a universal human experience. We have all felt it at some point in our lives. And yet, Christ came, to conquer death removing its sting. Because of the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus, there is no fear of death for everyone whom Jesus represents.

Through Adam, our original representative we fell into sin and death, but for all those united by faith to a new federal head, the Lord Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness of sins and an imputation of righteousness. This means that for a Christian there is nothing to fear, because at the judgement, he will stand before God washed clean from his sins and clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

For the unbeliever, one who is still represented by Adam. For the one who refuses to submit to the Lord Jesus – there is no mercy and there remains much to fear about death.

Death is not the end. You may be spending your life trying to convince yourself that it is, but next time you feel that fear, may it remind you that there is a reason for that emotion. That fear may in fact be God’s gift to you – a little goad, or a signpost pointing you to Jesus. Don’t ignore it!

It’s Getting Rather Hot

Posted: 23 November, 2018 in Uncategorized

I watched Trevor Noah’s latest stand-up comedy this evening, Son of Patricia. His views are decidedly to the left. Obviously. He works on TV – and anyone who works on TV in America knows that to stay afloat one must toe the party line. The media is so liberal that they will not tolerate anybody who does not agree. Having said that, I don’t think he is being forced into those views. I think he, like many others has drunk enough liberal kool-aid to begin believing in the craziness.

Anyway, putting that performance together with what I hear of American news and what I see even in South Africa, I can only conclude that the world is going insane and Christians can either stand up in opposition or be swept into apostasy. There is no safe neutral ground. The sad part is that I feel like much of the Church is being slowly boiled alive like the frog in the pot on the stove. The Church is slowly being boiled to death in the cultural water without even realising it. When will we stand up and say, “The emperor has no clothes on and the gospel is the only solution to this mess,” rather than seeing how close we can get to the flame without getting burnt.

We need to believe what we say we believe and allow that truth to animate us. We simply cannot afford – I simply cannot afford to continue to say that I believe the Bible but live like truth is relative.

Pleasure in Toil

Posted: 10 April, 2018 in Uncategorized

I met with a few teenage boys last night, which is something that we do on a monthly basis. We get together to discuss topics related to being a godly man.

Last night we had a guest over and in general, the guest will give something of a biography of himself so that the boys can see how he got from where they are, to where he is currently, and how his testimony works itself out in his chosen profession.

As usual, I think I benefitted more than the kids did, and the discussion left me mulling over (among other things) the nature of work.

The speaker made the point that having worked in his dad’s shop since primary school, and hating every moment, he realised that the more he hated it, the slower the time moved. The experience taught him to find pleasure in excellence, no matter what he found himself doing.

The fact is, he said, there will be times when you are working, no matter what type of work it is, that you will not feel like doing it, but you have to just knuckle down and get the job done. There is much truth in that for teenage boys to hear – even the fighter pilot has to do things he doesnt feel like doing sometimes.

But its not just helpful to teenage boys – I needed to be reminded of that again. There is much in the way of work which requires sheer self-discipline.

Having said that, there is also much reward to be gained from work, if we do it with the proper perspective. If we stop thinking about work as a means to an end, the end of making a living, and simply focus on taking pleasure in the act of creation. As we create something good, we are expressing the image of God far better than a simple wage earner, even in a sin-cursed world where work is… well – hard work!

“…also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3:13

 

Last night some friends and I did a crazy, spontaneous thing by going to watch the 11pm screening of the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi.

I really enjoyed the movie, in spite of watching it in 3D (which I despise!). The cinematography and special effects made for a satisfying experience, and the way they were able to superimpose Carrie-Ann Fischer’s face onto the new actress, was absolutely flawless.

I was struck by a few very noticeable elements in the movie which came across quite boldly. There were definitely some agendas being pushed by this artwork. Using the word, “agenda”, sounds so sinister and conspiratorial. That is not my intention, but I have to recognize and acknowledge the reality that film is a very powerful medium. It is highly influential and widely disseminated, and while there may or may not be deliberate intentions for influencing the culture on the part of the movie-makers, they most certainly do set trends, and they also (wanting to please the masses and thereby make more money) will be quick to bow to current social pressures.

So what were these ‘agendas’, exactly?

Feminism. A strong feminist bent was about as subtle as one of those Kangaroo-dog-camels, rampaging through the casino. Females were cast for the majority of the leadership roles (not to mention the main character is a female). Interestingly, the makers did not try to portray the female leaders in a butch way, as if they were trying to live up to a male stereotype. Instead they made many of them very ‘girly’ but still wanted us to believe that they were highly effective, accomplished and war-hardened military heroes – something I found particularly unbelievable. In a day and age of gender fluidity and lack of definition, I saw the clearly lady-like women (albeit in very unladylike roles), very interesting.

Bunny-hugging. Or birdie-hugging, in this case. Clearly, the makers wanted to send a pro-animal message – they made some very cute, and cuddly looking creatures, and then put them in scenes where they were being cruelly-treated. That is all good and well – as a Christian, I am told to care for the life of my beasts. What I found disturbing, was how cruelty and immorality was being portrayed.

At one point Chewbacca was about to eat a roast bird, when a bunch of other cute, cuddly birds with big sorry-for-me-eyes came and watched him. He tried to scare them away, but in the end he didn’t eat the bird, and clearly felt ashamed for having killed it in the first place.

At another point we see some alien whipping a racing Kangaroo-dog-camel, and clearly the implication is that this is wrong. Of course, whipping an animal can easily be cruel, and there were stripes left on these creatures which support the idea that the whipping was excessive. However, using animals for racing and disciplining them corporally is not in-itself wrong. In fact, animals were made to be used and to serve man. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the implications of Darwinian evolution. If an evolutionist wishes to hold on to morality, he or she must not distinguish between humans and other less-evolved life-forms. If you say that animals are not worthy of the same rights as humans, then you must answer the question, “Why?” This is unanswerable from and evolutionary standpoint.

Crossing ethnic and racial divides. This comes across strongly, and clearly the makers want to show that ultimately we are all the same regardless of external factors, and we can work together for the greater good. I applaud this particular message, which just goes to show, that its not the fact that there are agenda’s and messages being sent in art which is the problem. It is who’s messages and agenda’s they are. Are they Satan’s or are they God’s?

My last observation for the purposes of this article is that they tried very hard to stick as closely as possible to the original trilogy (episode IV, V and VI) décor and themes – this is most noticeable in the form of Master Yoda, who appears toward the end of the film, looking and sounding far more like the original Yoda than the (in my opinion) better, more polished Yoda of Episodes I, II and III.

P.S. Whatever happened to training Jedi? So the oldschool Jedi had to train for years. Heck, they almost didn’t accept Anakin, because he was too old. But recently, it seems like Jedi can do it on their own, purely on natural talent, and without much more than a crash course, they can beat formidable dark opponents.

P.P.S. I did actually enjoy this movie, in spite of what may sound like a negative rant

A Consolation in Affliction

Posted: 3 December, 2017 in Uncategorized
The below is taken from The Great Gain of Godliness by Thomas Watson:
  1. When the Lord afflicts the saints yet he deals well with them because he is their God.
  2. When it goes badly with the godly, yet God deals well with them because, while he is inflicting evil upon them he is doing them good. ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted’ (Psalm 119:71)
               The godly grow wiser
               Affliction promotes holiness
  1. When God puts his children to the school of the cross, yet he deals well with them because he does not leave them without a promise: ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  2. God deal swell with his people when he afflicts because afflictions are preventative.
               They prevent sin
               They prevent hell
  1. When God corrects he deals well with his people because all he does is in love. ‘As many as I love, I rebuke.’ (Revelation 3:19)
  2. God deals well with his people when he afflicts them because he moderates his stroke; ‘I will correct thee in measure.’ (Jeremiah 30:11; 46:28)
  3. When God afflicts his children he deals well with them because he keeps them from sinning in affliction; ‘I pray… that thou shouldest keep them from evil.’ (John 17:15)
               The godly are kept from impatience.
               The godly dare not use any dishonest means to extricate themselves out of trouble.
  1. God deals well with his children in affliction because though he correct them, he does not forsake them. ‘For the Lord will not cast off for ever.’ (Lamentations 3:31)
  2. God deals well with his children in affliction because though their condition should be sad, yet it is not so bad as others. 
  3. God in affliction deals well with his children because, if he takes away one comfort, he leaves more behind. 
  4. When God afflicts, he deals well with his people because he takes away nothing from them but he gives them that which is better. 
  5. When God afflicts his children he deals well with them because he affords them his divine presence: ‘I will be with him in trouble.’ (Psalm 91:15)
  6. God in afflicting deals well with his children because he gives them that which makes amends for their afflictions; he drops in the oil of gladness; he makes them gather grapes of thorns: ‘Your sorrow shall be turned into joy’ (John 16:20)
  7. When God corrects his children he deals well with them because these paroxysms or hot trials do not last long. After the clouds, the sun. ‘I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever’ (1 Kings 11:39)
  8. When God puts his children to the school of the cross he deals well with them . ‘Our light affliction… worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The World Without Worry

Posted: 21 October, 2017 in Uncategorized

Remember when you were a little kid, and you looked ahead to some career, or activity that you would only be able to do as an adult.

Think of driving, for example. How did you feel as you anticipated driving your own car one day? Don’t you remember feeling like to be able to drive would just be the best thing in the world? The freedom, the speed, the autonomy, the nice car, the independence! What’s not to love??

Then we grow up and few of us experience life the way we pictured it as a child. Not only does the novelty wear off, but our frontal cortex takes over and we begin to dwell on the RESPONSIBILITY of being an adult.
As a driver, you have to think about the wear and tear on your car; you have to think about the price of petrol, and the fact that your little joy ride costs something. You have to think about the risk of an accident, the time wasted in traffic, and a million other negatives. The result is – all the joy the child in you expected simply evaporates!

I have been thinking a lot about perspective, anxiety and fear-of-man, recently, and I am beginning to think that the perspective of the child is the better one.
Yes, the kid-version-of-you didn’t realise the responsibility that come with a career, or a car, or kids, but he did know where to focus.

I think that it is possible to be both responsible AND childlike in our experience of life. Stop thinking that life has to be perfect to be enjoyable. Realise the risks, but don’t dwell on them. Acknowledge the fact that life isn’t a bed of roses, but choose not to fixate on the thorns. Remember how young-you looked at life, and let that little guy/girl out to enjoy it!