The Path of Commitment: Walk, Speak, Do

“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD” (Psalm 15:1-4)

Three words from Psalm 15 characterize a genuine sojourner and dweller with God.  Sojourning and dwelling reveal a favored place, one of lasting permanence upon arrival.  The place of dwelling as expressed in Psalm 15:1 gives delight and joy to the person living there.  What follows this verse explains why.  The person’s walk, words, and actions reflect in living that which satisfies on location.  The person’s entire being aligns with the dwelling place.  First, it is the place where God dwells.  Second, it gives total satisfaction, because God designed and created this place for the people who love following Him.  Third, continued communion with God exists through worship toward God.

Consider, first the location.  The place of sojourn is a tent.  However, it is no ordinary tents but rather an intimate one.  It is God’s tent in which He alone dwells and invites to Him those with whom He wishes to commune.  It is a place of warm and sacred fellowship with God.  The rhetorical question about those who sojourn there begs an answer related to worship and sacredness associated with God Himself.  We receive this sacredness from God’s interaction with Abraham and Moses.  God made holy and spiritual promises to Abraham and treated him as a friend (James 2:23).  God spoke to Moses as one would to a friend (Exodus 33:11).  Sacredness exists where friendships run deep.  God’s tent represented such friendship.

There is more about location in the opening statement of Psalm 15.  The psalm speaks of God’s holy hill.  God set this place apart for those with whom He desires to communicate.  Such a person reciprocates in walking, speaking, and doing God’s will faithfully.  This person does not draw back from these acts, because he dwells with God on His holy hill.  He desires to be with God and like God.  Faithful and steadfast dwelling allow this likeness to occur.

Walking, speaking, and doing involve the entire life committed to God and, as we read later, to one’s neighbor, friend, and those who fear the LORD.  The vertical relationship with God always translates into our horizontal relationship with others.  The Hebrews knew no other disposition.  How one walks, speaks, and does toward God translates into walking, speaking, and doing with neighbors, friends, and those who fear the LORD.  Commitment is doing and not quitting with neighbors, friends, and those who fear the LORD when circumstances may not be the most convenient.  Otherwise, we let them down and betray them and God. We will explore how walking, speaking, and doing express themselves in another article.

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.” Abraham Lincoln

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Commitment: One Who Dwells Faithfully with God

When we as confessing believers in Christ talk about commitment, what do we mean? Do we approach this act from the view of the world or from the view of a holy God?  Psalm 15 provides deep insight into the way of commitment.  This article focuses on the opening statement:

“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (15:1-3)

These two rhetorical questions guide the reader to a series of answers. The questions intend to direct attention to genuine commitment to God and people. Two words key the reader into the meaning of genuine commitment: “sojourn” (יָג֣וּר) and “dwell” (יִ֝שְׁכֹּ֗ן).  The first word means to remain, inhabit, abide, or continue.  The second word translated “dwell,” takes on constancy, perpetuation, or permanent residency.  The two words express different status and timing.  Charles John Ellicott (1819-1905) suggests sojourning signifies a guest status (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Psalm 15, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/psalms/15.htm).  A little context from Genesis places a guest status in an honorary light as though they belonged there.  Abraham welcomed his guests of angels with very high regard (Genesis 18:1-8).  They were, because they came to Abraham as faithful messengers of God, and one was God!

However, when joined with “dwell,” in addressing the same person, this sojourning regards these guests as more than temporary.  They came as guest but staid as permanent residents.  They made commitment to YAHWEH, the God of all creation and the personal God who welcomes the faithful.  They committed to the God of their eternal home yet to be realized.  They not only sojourned but continued faithfully with their God.  Commitment to such people raises faithfulness to the highest priority.

They walk, speak, and do according to their dwelling faithfulness (15:2).  Nothing deters them from their walking, speaking, and doing God’s will.  With these three acts, they have four people in mind: the neighbor, a friend, a vile person, and those who fear the LORD (15:3-4).  To the first two, the person who commits to God’s wills in walking, speaking, and doing also commits wholeheartedly to one’s neighbor and friend.  One who fears the LORD receives honor beyond a neighbor and friend.  Walking close, speaking well, and doing good show this exemplary honor toward those who fear the LORD.  There is a sense of faithfulness in doing these.  That is, a person who sojourns and dwells with God never breaks commitment to neighbor, friend, and especially to those who fear the LORD.

We will explore neighbors, friends, and those who fear the LORD in more depth in subsequent articles.  We will also examine walking, speaking, and doing in more detail.  These acts towards these groups of people lead to a subsequent crescendo in 15:4, which brings commitment to that which aligns with commitment to God.  Where is your commitment to both God, neighbor, friend, and those who fear the LORD?  Does it last or is it like chaff that blows away when the winds become inconvenient?

“In the Bible, spirituality and ethics go hand in hand; piety and conduct cannot be divorced. There are consequences to our beliefs and spiritual commitments, and these pertain not only to this life but also to the life to come” (Carson, D. A. The Cross and Christian Ministry (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.).

Can Something be True without Being Factual?

The LA Times published an editorial April 13, 2017 about the Passover, In religion, something can be true without being factual.  The article poses a question, “Does it matter if the Passover story is literally true?”

In it, the author, Eric Schwitzgebel, argues that it does matter.  However, his position is that if it is true, then Judaism has a problem.  He confronts one negative with another.  He states the problem in the following way,

“It matters,” I said, “because if the story is literally true, then a god who works miracles really exists. It matters if there is such a god or not. I don’t think I would like the moral character of that god, who kills innocent Egyptians. I’m glad there is no such god.”

That is, he claims that making the story historically factual, gives Judaism a murderous god, something he does not want to believe.  Such a false dilemma.  Therefore, one must adapt a story or myth to present values to make it powerful for today.  In other words, he celebrates a truth of values, which are adaptable to present circumstances.  Consequently, the way to escape what one considers a negative from history is to establish one’s own truth based on ever changing values.  This argument is one similar to that which many today hold,

“What is true for you may not be true for me,”

or

“Your truth may not be the same as my truth.”

These statements result from divorcing truth from historical fact and creating one’s own “facts” or not having any facts at all upon which truth rests.  That is, truth is that of convenience to do away with what one dislikes.

Several people responded to this editorial, but one specifically caught my attention.  This responder picked up on the core issue when writing,

   “As a professor of philosophy he probably knows the difference between “facts” and “truth,” as well as how much the meaning of stories matters, regardless of their empirical factuality. His “alternative” interpretations of the Torah manifest precisely this difference, in their appeal to the “moral” character of God.    He is correct to say that the meanings of the stories contain their moral lessons. Therein also lies their truth value.     No matter one’s inclination for literal as opposed to figurative interpretation, the stories of the Torah aim at truth, as do all religious narratives. More than their factuality, the truth of these narratives is what both comforts and discomforts us. Interpreting these stories and communicating their truth is what holds in tension our contemporary values with the timelessness of truth.”

What this responder claims is that truth does not necessarily have to be based on facts to hold truth.  That is, truth and facts are not necessarily the same or something can be true without being factual.

Here is the rub.  If truth and facts can be different, then why should we believe this Schwitzgebel or the responder to him?  If truth and facts can be divorced from one another, what difference does it make?  None.  One simply states a baseless opinion among many opinions for one’s faith, which does not rise to any significance, especially if truth has no foundation in reality (facts of history).  Facts are stubborn things of reality.  That which is non-factual has no correspondence to reality.  To espouse “truth” without grounding in reality makes it fictitious and without any significance.  That which is not part of reality does not exist and has no knowledge base.  Our entire existence and way of life are based on truth having its grounding in the reality of facts.  Once we dismiss or ignore facts as the basis for truth, chaos ensues.  We cannot live with such a division.  Rather, one would necessarily take a leap of faith into the dark abyss of non-existence where knowledge does not exists.  Such a leap is an attempt to escape reality itself.

How do we know Schwitzgebel is not wrong if he makes a distinction between truth and facts?  How can Schwitzgebel judge something right or wrong, whether a historical event or present circumstance which becomes history, if truth has no grounding in fact?  If truth and facts are different, how are judges to make decisions in courts?  Those who swear to tell the truth can also ignore the facts of a case.  If truth and facts can be separate, why believe anyone who presents you with a contract?  If someone swears they will do something, and they believe in the division between truth and facts, why would you believe them?  Actions are also facts, and we cannot wish them away regardless how much we try.  It is this kind of reasoning that destroys truth altogether and makes lies the bedrock of society.

However, we know that the Exodus and Passover are true because they are factual events.  Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).  He fulfilled Passover by paying the price for our sins and then rising from the dead.

Have a Blessed Easter (Paschal).

The Letter to the Galatians Outline

When Paul wrote his letters to the churches, he frequently addressed problems they encountered.  The urgency of the problem depended on how swift he addressed it.  In the Galatians letter, Paul began with the problem immediately.  Not long after Christ’s death and resurrection, defection from the gospel began.  The influence of Judaism and the Mosaic Law remained strong among the recipients of the gospel.

The Church lived in two worlds: the world of Judaism and the world of Christ’s resurrection.  While mass conversions took place to Christ, the thought of leaving Judaism never entered the minds of the Jews.  They still had their synagogues, the Temple, sacrifices, ceremonies, and Torah.  The newness of the resurrection never led the Jews to believe that they must leave the Jewish religion and all that defined it.

Then came Paul.  He discovered or rediscovered the seeds of the gospel in God’s word to the Jews in the Old Testament through his encounter with the living Christ.  These seeds came to fruition through Christ.  Christ opened his eyes to the grace and peace (Galatians 1:3) from the unchanging covenant given from God of the Jews and the Gentiles.  As he received this revelation from Christ, he understood how the Mosaic Law never meant to be the means of redemption or what distinguished the people of God from others.  The Gentiles never had the benefits the Jews possessed (Romans 9:4).  Yet, God also called them to redemption.

Since Paul ministered the unqualified grace and peace of Christ to the Gentiles, a huge tension arose among the Jews concerning authority.  God gave Moses the Law.  Must then the Gentiles enter the Christian community of faith through the same authority – Moses?  There is precedent for this process – Gentile proselytes through circumcision.  If so, they must be circumcised and observe the tenets of the Mosaic Law to receive redemption.  Christ was not enough.  Grace was not enough.  One cannot just kick Moses to the curb just because Paul said so.  Who was he to usurp Mosaic authority?  What was Paul’s answer?  No, no, no!  No one could keep the Law.  Sinful flesh held sway over us and simply leads to defection.  Jewish history gave evidence of Israel continually leaving God.

What then?  Paul argues that God the Father and Jesus His Son gave the necessary grace and peace the Law could not provide.  This grace and peace came through the cross: Christ becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  With this message, Paul encountered the first heresy of this young Church – the renunciation of Christ’s complete satisfaction for sin.  What are the points of this heresy?  Christ and His sacrifice were not enough.  Grace was not enough.  Peace with God was not enough.  The Galatians needed to go through the Mosaic Law to get through Christ’s redemption.  Therefore, salvation was Christ plus, grace plus, the cross plus.  What was the plus?  Human effort!  The tension was between Christ and human effort.

OUTLINE

I.            The Problem: Gospel Defection, 1:6-12; 3:1-4

A.                  The tension with the gospel

B.                  What is legalism?

C.                  Rejecting Christ

D.                 Rejecting Christ’s sacrifice

E.                  Substitutes another gospel that is human centered

II.          Defense of the Gospel from Experience, 1:11-2:21

A.                  Direct Call from Jesus Christ

B.                  Conversion and Rejection of Judaism

C.                  Affirmation by the Apostles

D.                 Showdown with Peter

III.        Defense of the Gospel from the Scriptures and History (OT), 3:1-4:31

A.                  Faith centered as shown by Abraham, 3:1-9; Acts 13:36-40; Habakkuk 2:4

B.                  Opposed to the Mosaic Law, 3:10-12

C.                  Christ centered, 3:13-14

D.                 According to promise, 3:14-18

E.                  Purpose of the Mosaic Law explained, 3:19-4:7

F.                   Mosaic Law versus the promises of God, 4:8-31

IV.        Application and Return to the Message, 5-6

A.                  The liberty of faith and the slavery of the flesh, 5:1-15

B.                  Walking in the Holy Spirit versus walking in the flesh, 5:16-26

C.                  Love as bearing burdens of others, 6:1-5

D.                 Love as doing good, 6:6-10

E.                  Keep the cross central, 6:11-18

 

Nothing But the Gospel

Can We be Saved through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy?

Nothing But the Gospel: Can We be Saved through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy? by [Talbot, Floyd]

Today’s Christians live in a religiously pluralistic and diverse environment. Pluralism is a hot topic in our post-modern society. That is, we receive pressure to be all-inclusive and to embrace diversity. This pressure does not stop with culture or race. Religious pluralism is also included in this list. Such pluralism suggests that we should be accepting of other religions and their teachings as well as embracing more than one way to God and His salvation. Otherwise, we are labeled intolerant and narrow-minded. However, must we accept this mindset?

This book tackles these challenges.

A tug of war continues to exist over two positions within Christian circles:

1.Exclusivism – One who does not know God must encounter the proclaimed gospel to come to a saving knowledge of him.
2.Inclusivism – Those who have never heard the gospel can come to a saving knowledge of God without hearing the gospel. Rather, they can go to heaven by responding to the light from creation, other religions, human reason, or philosophy.

One of the major consequences of these two positions concerns the person and nature of God. This book engages in a lengthy discussion about how each position treats God and the difference such treatments of Him make.

It addresses such questions as “Is God fair? Can we trust Him? Is God in control of the future, specifically our destiny, or does He share control and power with His creation, specifically humanity?”

The environment of inclusivism has an increasingly negative influence on evangelical churches and whole denominations, leading many astray. It is of utmost importance for Christians to understand influences speculative philosophy and false teachings have on faith.

This book also affirms that only the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Salvation requires the right power. The Scriptures declare that the source of that power is in the gospel, and it begins with the righteousness of the triune God. Getting the God of our faith right insures that we come to an accurate understanding of salvation. This book discusses these two essential attributes of God, His power and righteousness, for salvation.

What is the Point in Faith?

A person in another discussion board posed the following scenario worthy of discussion, because it appears to make faith an abstraction divorced from reason and knowledge.  This article replies to the concluding question.

—————————————————

“I have a hypothetical for any believers who consider faith a virtue. Imagine a young child born to Christian parents. In circumstance A, the child is raised Christian. In circumstance B, the child is adopted and raised Muslim.

Regardless of who raises the child, by adulthood it will believe one of these religions on faith. These religions however, totally negate each other.

My question is: what is the point in faith?”

LINK: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/channel-religion/the_irrationality_of_faith/

The point in faith? To understand faith, one must drill down into its meaning. The way of and context for your question seems to focus on faith as an abstraction. It is not. Allow an example.

Suppose you enter enter a marital relationship. For the sake of argument, let it be within the context of the Christian faith since you address that faith leading up to your question. Christians view such a marriage as exclusive and permanent. The question arises in that relationship: Does each spouse trust or believe in the other for faithfulness and commitment to that exclusivity? Trust and believe are simply the verb parts of speech for the noun faith. The foundation for that believing or trusting is that the relationship actually exist and is therefore based on and grounded in reality: two people are married and have established a real household. Even your example bears this out.

The outcome of the actual relationship is a family unit of the two parents and children. Christians hold to faith in the same way. Mutual faith in the marital relationship is not an abstraction. Rather it is a bond acted out in commitment and the behaviours and actions that commitment ensues.

Some people attempt to divorce faith from what exists or reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. For if that were so, then there could be faith without the relationship or in non-existence itself. However, biblical faith is not divorced from reality, reason, or what exists. It requires knowledge, and knowledge requires reason to make sense of that knowledge. Faith and knowledge do not stand independent from one another. For if they did, there would be no faith but presumption or the Kierkegaardian leap into the dark abyss of nothingness.

Those who divorce faith from knowledge and reality are not defining faith but presumption. A great biblical example of such faith is found in Hebrews 11:3,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible ” (NKJV).

In this passage, the author attests faith as commitment to knowledge, that is what actually exists. It affirms two things about this reality: 1) God created what exists so that existence did not just pop up out of nothing, and 2) the visible did not create the visible (for example rocks did not create other rocks at the outset or that matter is eternal). The author of the Hebrews rejects the division of faith from knowledge and reason, for he points to knowledge and he uses syllogistic reasoning. Therefore, the whole point of faith within the context of biblical faith is affirmation and commitment to what is real and not to what does not exist.

That commitment recognizes (knowledge of reality) that God created us to be a certain way, and to be another way strains or breaches the relationship and leads to alienation. That is the reason that the Bible frequently uses marriage as a metaphor to express the relationship between God and humanity. As I said before, in this context faith is the bond for the real relationship to God in the same way that it is in the actual marital relationship. It is not irrational but very reasonable and joins with reason to makes sense of what exists – the relationship. Otherwise, faith would not be faith but presumption. Presumption is irrational and a leap.