Monday, February 14, 2011

The wrong program

by Ryan Lambros
 
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
 
I upgrade my PC from Vista to Windows 7 about a month ago. I love the change. However, recently I had a serious problem. My lovely computer would freeze up on me right after starting it up. After running numerous diagnostic tests, of which I had no clue what they mean since I’m not a computer nerd, it showed I had a hard drive error. Darn it. So, I searched Google to see if anyone else had this problem and if there was fix. After sifting through tons of people basically telling me that my hard drive was a “goner” because my hard drive had been fried by a virus, I found a different perspective: the wonderful cause of the defective hard drive was directly associated with an antivirus software I was using! After simply uninstalling the antivirus software, my computer worked flawlessly. The reason was that the antivirus software was not designed to work correctly (although sometimes it could) with my upgraded Windows 7.
 
I won’t say what software it was. I am not into bashing certain products. If you want to know then you can ask me personally, but I found it really fascinating that the one thing I relied on to protect my computer’s brain was the one thing that was corrupting it. This brought to mind a spiritual aspect Paul discusses with his audience in Galatians. His main point for the letter was to bring them back to the Gospel of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone as opposed to a legalistic “gospel” that proclaimed salvation by adherence to the law.
 
Paul’s intention was never to “bash” the law and state that it served no purpose or had no place.
 
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:23-26)
His intention was to show that:
 
“…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
 
Paul shows that the law is deadly when it is applied as the Gospel. Through Christ we are free and are no longer to submit to legalism. Yet, how often do I apply legalism as the Gospel. I put so much trust in doing good things, keeping the “laws” of God, and operating out of legalism instead of out of God’s grace!
 
Just like I trusted my computer’s antivirus program to protect my computer, which it actually turned out to damage it more, so often do I trust my heart’s “antivirus” program (legalism) to protect my heart, thus hurting ME more. It slows my relationship with God. It “freezes” me in my pursuit of holiness. It discourages me when I try to “operate” in God’s plan for my life. What we need is to apply the new antivirus…the true Gospel of grace.
 
Let me tie this metaphor together (even though, like all metaphors, it eventually breaks down).
 
The upgrade to Windows 7 is like Christ’s redemptive work for us (I may get struck by lightning for comparing Windows to that, but oh well). The old antivirus software used is the law. It worked with the old system (pre-Christ) fairly well. Sure, any antivirus shouldn’t be needed, but every computer has problems (metaphor for indwelling sin? Eh, maybe a bit much). The old antivirus didn’t totally fix every problem every time, but it allowed for Vista to operate well. Yet, once the upgrade happened, I no longer needed the old antivirus; I simply needed to apply a “new antivirus.” In fact, by keeping the old one around, I was hurting myself even more.
 
The same applies to us when we attempt to operate out of legalism (old antivirus) instead of grace (the new antivirus). We are using “old protection” on a system that has been upgraded (Christ’s redemption). Oh yes, legalism can give you a wonderful assurance of security, satisfaction, and self-righteousness, but realistically it will fry your heart (hard drive).
 
Applying the Gospel to our lives is like using the new antivirus. We have been redeemed by Christ and that gives us freedom! We are not to trust in the old antivirus, but we are to trust in God’s grace of the Gospel! Only when we apply the Gospel will our hearts be free to run without freezes, not slowed down, and never ultimately crash. What was “good” before can be such a detriment to our lives now.
 
Are you using the old antivirus of legalism to rule your heart? Or are you using God’s antivirus of grace to keep your heart free, running the race set before you? We have a new antivirus that was provided for us by God: grace through Jesus Christ. Will you trust in that or the crutch of legalism to help in your pursuit of holiness?
 
Ryan Lambros is an FGA member and has worked in youth ministry in several capacities.  He graduated from Southwestern College (now Arizona Christian University) with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.  He can be reached at ryan@maricopasprings.com.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Branch is a Branch…

By Dr. Fred Lybrand
Okay,
So I'm in the shower (weird how we think there) and I'm going over John MacArthur's view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind). I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.
He described the branches that were 'thrown in the fire' as false branches (Judas Branches). Lest you think I'm making this up, I tracked it down:
There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas' betrayal. And at that point, the "In Me" simply means "identification." I don't think you can push too much theology into that "in Me" and say that it means absolute conversion. It's attachment at that point, that's all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it's saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it's a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.
(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )
So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:
15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, "he cuts off." But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:
These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the "burned" branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the 'burned' branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch "is thrown away and withers.") (3) the "burned" branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
(from Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 [Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000]).
Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy...and...yes, of course, it is strange that 'in Me' doesn't mean 'in Me' (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.
But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.
The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH. There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches. Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either. Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science ('contrived by art' around 1300AD). Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.
When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are "not His." He does not say that they are false sheep (you know...look like the real thing...but really aren't sheep). False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth....and, we know where these things come from.
But, where would a false branch come from? In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for 'false' branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish). The branches are real, and they are In Christ. Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).
From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?
Necessity...and...it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text. Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word 'dead' in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers. Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one's justification as impossible (I agree)---all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ's mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.
I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God. Saying, "It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text."
My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word. The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat! The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.
So, what do you think?
Fred Lybrand’s bio may be found here.
http://www.backtofaith.com