Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Love the Lord with All Your Mind: A Sermon

From a sermon delivered on February 7, 2016 at Fellowship Bible Chapel in Fort Myers, Fl. Part of a study series on The Greatest Commandment. Browse mini-studies on this topic.

3 Questions

In Mark 12:13-34 we have three questions asked of the Lord Jesus. The first two were cold, calculated inquiries intended to trap Jesus in his words and give the religious leaders just cause to condemn him. The third was an honest inquiry. Notice that Christ offers a legitimate, lucid answer to every inquiry regardless of the intention behind it. The only difference is the benefit to the inquirer.

Paying Taxes

Mark 12:13-17
The Pharisees begin the questioning by asking if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. What is interesting is the way they pose this question. They layer four compliments before finally getting around to the money question. The tactic they employ is known as an argumentum ad superbiam—an appeal to pride.

The appeal to pride is common, you've probably heard it before or even used it. A few examples include:
"You are so good at doing the dishes, you should do them more often."

"You students are way too intelligent to believe some mystical being bothered to create this world, you should accept that an uncoordinated, unthinking big bang set the laws of nature into motion."

"This is the car for you, you look 10 years younger behind that steering wheel!"
It is fallacy to believe that an appeal to pride can take the place of fact when drawing a logical conclusion. Notice I did not say an appea to pride means to lie. These compliments may well be truthful (skill at dishwashing, a student's intelligence, how young one looks behind the wheel of a car) but they distract from the actual point of the argument. That's the intention.

The Pharisees did not lie about Jesus. Here are the things they said about him in verse 14:
  1. Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. He only said what is true and never omitted truth.
  2. Jesus is no respecter of persons. He had no problems calling out the religious leaders.
  3. Jesus is no respecter of persons. He comes to seek and save all who were lost.
  4. Jesus knew the Father in a way no one else ever could. He is one with God the Father.
However, the Pharisees' flattery was intended to cloud the issue and lure Jesus into making a grave mistake. They set up a platform where a politically charged, revolutionary statement was the easiest thing in the world to make. The problem is, Jesus' revolution was a spiritual one and not a worldly one. Jesus did not come into this world to overthrow the government. He came to obey the Father and establish his spiritual kingdom.

Jesus cuts through the flattery and gets at the core of the issue. In verse 15, the Pharisees try to cloud the issue even more by asking if it is lawful to pay taxes—Roman law is clear: pay taxes. Mosaic law was written for Israelites in a different time. There was no king ruling over Israel at the time. Jesus' response clarifies all of that by saying, You are under both God and your Government. Respect both. In other words: You are where you are because God has placed you there. Praise the Lord and pay your dues.

In the end, Jesus retains his focus and displays his testimony.

Afterlife Nuptuals

Mark 12:18-27
The Saducees take over the questioning with a theoretical story. They propose (pun intended) a scenario in which a man dies and leaves a widow with no child who is then taken, by Jewish law, as wife by his brother. The brother also dies without leaving an heir and this cycle repeats itself through seven brothers. The question then becomes: In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?

It is can be quickly deduced that this line of question follows the fallacy of reductio ad absurdum—it is a reduction to absurdity. It follows the same lines as Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal or the exasperated mother scolding their child by reciting the old line, "If your friends all jumped off a clff to their deaths, would you do it too?" Both are absurd. For Swift: of course we are not going to eat Irish babies, that's gross and should not even cross our minds. For the child: of course I'm not going to jump off a cliff to my death just because Johnny did it. All I wanted was to skip school and watch the new Star Wars movie.

NOTE: I do not condone skipping school. But comparing following foolish friends in skipping school with jumping off a cliff is absolutely an example of reductio ad absurdum. It is an exaggeration with the intent to prove a point. The conclusion is supposed to be so crazy that you must reject the premise of the argument.

The point of the Saducees' story? The doctrine of resurrection is ridiculous.

However, I can certainly see this scenario's place in the synagogue. It is a religious football that can be kicked around and pondered for ages with no resolution. It is an endless debate. It is an opportunity to stroke your intellectual ego.

The Saducees huddle together and laugh at how funny those resurrectionists are for holding on to this crazy belief while Pharisees stand up and try to answer the question of the Seven Brother's Bride:
  • "It will be the first brother because he chose her."
  • "It will be the last because his vows were the final ones taken into the afterlife."
  • "It is not for us to know. Whichever brother was her bashert will be her husband."
  • "Whichever loved her most..."
  • Whichever made the greatest sacrifices for her..."
The debate is endless. There may be great truths to uncover in these responses, but none of them effectively end the discussion. There is a lot of discussion in the Christian community that falls under this category: interesting but not effective.

Jesus' answer brings clarity to the debate. He effectively says Wow, you've got it all wrong. Remember, Jesus is no respecter of persons. His only aim is for truth.

Jesus assumes the resurrection in direct contradiction to the Saducees. He does not even bother to meet them at their level on this one. Further, He calls out the fallacy that marriage bonds exist in eternity as they do in this world. Note that he does not go into much detail on the nature of marriage in the afterlife. And fi;juy6dedc5rtcd nally, he shifts the focus to something concrete and unquestionably true:

God IS. He is the God of the living. He is the God of life itself.

The religious football of speculation is worthless when compared to the revelation of concrete truth.

Sincere Inquiry

Mark 12:28-34
"A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel" Proverbs 1:5
Verse 28 represents a shift in the line of questioning. There was a scribe who was actually listening to Jesus and recognized the wisdom in his words. So, he extends the conversation by asking Jesus about the greatest commandment.

Jesus' response is unique. Only here and in Matthew does Jesus separate the MIND from the HEART in the recitation of this verse from Deuteronomy. Even the account in Matthew is couched in the same context, which makes Jesus' highlight especially poignant. He says that the mind is a critical part of man's makeup and it should be devoted to God's pleasure. Jesus had just fielded questions soaked in pretext, an honest inquiry will never be ignored. Ask and you shall receive.

The Scribe Agrees

When the scribe says "Right" or "Well said" he is agreeing with Christ's answer to his question. Not only so, but he goes on to state that the Lord desires love over offerings & sacrifices—the trappings of religiosity. In doing so, he echoes the sentiments of the prophet Samuel and writings in the Psalms.

Jesus Responds

to the scribe with both recognition and affirmation. According to v.34, Jesus recognizes that the scribe's answer is intelligent and well reasoned. Then he affirms that his rationale was on the right track. He is not far from the kingdom of God.


What did Jesus see in the scribe? He saw someone who truly loved the Lord with all his mind. But what did he do that proves this statement?
  1. He came to Christ with no Presuppositions. He had a true inquiry.
  2. He came to Christ with Prior Knowledge. He knew the law.
  3. He came to Christ with his Powers of Perception. He was able to take knowledge of Christ and apply is to knowledge of the Law.
Finally, these points are applicable to anyone who seeks to love the Lord with all their minds:
  1. Presuppositions: We lay down our paradigms and honor God's
  2. Prior Knowledge: We don't check our intelligence at the door.
  3. Perception: We know what prior knowledge needs to be abandoned in light of Christ & what prior knowledge dovetails with scripture

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Remembering Easter

Notes from a message at Fellowship Bible Chapel in Fort Myers, Fl. Delivered by Gary Clark.

Who Remembers?

Who remembered Jesus' words about his own resurrection? More importantly, when did they remember? Who was the first to remember what Jesus said about his own death, burial and resurrection? You may be shocked to learn who remembered, when.

3. Last: The Disciples/Apostles

You would think that the disciples. The men who were devoted to Jesus. The men who fervently followed Jesus. The men who gave up their livelihoods for Jesus. The men who ate, slept and prayed with Jesus. You would think these men would be the first to remember Jesus' words because, you know, they hung on his every word.

They were actually the last to remember that Jesus predicted his own death, burial and resurrection.

2. The Women

The women who visited the tomb on Easter morning fully expected to see a corpse. When they didn't see a dead body, they freaked out. They did not remember Jesus' words. They needed an angelic reminder and a visit from the resurrected Christ to refresh their memory.

Commend them for their belief. At least they believed when they were told. That is more than can be said for the disciples.

1. The Pharisees

Shocker! The Pharisees remembered Jesus' claims and ensured that the disciples would not be able to steal the body away. This was done while Christ was in the grave. This also proves that they understood Jesus' claim to "destroy the temple and raise it in three days." He wasn't talking about Herod's temple, he was talking about his life.

The Pharisees, though they did not believe, certainly understood Jesus and memorized his words. This goes to prove that head-knowledge is not a substitute for faith.


It is a shame that the followers of Christ were not the first to remember his words. It should be a sobering thought to all Christians. We need to be vigilant and remember that Christ is in control in every situation. Do not let our emotions cloud our view of Christ and his words.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Evangelical Theology: Book Review

The Book

Evangelical Theology: An Introducton
Karl Barth

I came across this book quite by accident. I had finished a novel and wanted to grab some weightier substance to crunch my brain cells on and so I searched my local library for various names I thought might serve that purpose.

Through their recommendations, I came across Karl Barth—a name that I recognized from my undergrads. So I clicked and was confronted with the Evangelical Theology: An Introduction audiobook. I snagged it and listened to it all the way to Walt Disney World (My wife was running the Glass Slipper Challenge).

No, I did not finish it in one weekend. No, I did not digest everything there is to learn in this work. But what I learned, I will share in this review using quotes that I think can be loosely attributed to this book. Please bear in mind that I listened to the book and furiously wrote down quotes.

I absolutely plan to buy this book and give it a thorough reading before shelving it for reference.

The Review

I gave the book 4 stars on GoodReads. The content is absolutely fantastic. The only problem I have is with the way certain things are phrased. I understand that Theology is not an easy subject, yet I feel that things may be phrased more simply. Perhaps this, again, has to do with the fact that I listened to the book and did not read it. It certainly does not lend itself to audio.

This could also be due to the fact that the work is a translation into English. That always makes for dodgy literature since translators may be to blame. Yet, there are moments when Barth bores through the dense language with a clear, condensed thought that cuts to the quick. I will not share some of those statements:
Think of Christianity more as a new nation and less as a system of beliefs.
Here, Karl Barth was referring to this new community that developed after Christ's resurrection. This new community that was called "Christian" in Antioch. They were a new kingdom that was held together by their King. They were less dependent on creeds than they were on their love for one other. They had no doctrine but the story of what Jesus had done. They had no qualifications other than what they heard from Christ.

Perhaps it would be good to remember that part of primitive Christianity. To be evangelical is to be devoted to basic biblical truths. It does not get much more basic than this.
How is your heart? That is the question every theologian must face.
Barth hones in on the study of Theology a lot in this book. He places a greater burden on theologian, for the theologian should know the most and be responsible for more than a person who does not study scripture. Theology is a dynamic study—the process should fundamentally change the theologian. Inevitably, the theologian will have to ask themselves: What about my heart? There will be nowhere to hide from the answer.
Christian faith is not a belief THAT but a belief IN...
Theology is the study of a person, not a thing. Likewise, the Christian faith is a belief in the person of Jesus Christ and not a belief that anything happened or that anything is. Without the living Christ, our faith is useless.
It is terrible when God keeps silence and, by keeping silent, speaks.
Returning to the Theologian's struggle to know and believe, Barth touches on the single most disturbing part of the study of theology: times of silence.

There are times when the theologian may cry out for understanding or clarification but hears no answer. But the silence is not God withholding a response, it is God's intended response. This could be due to a number of things like:
  • The theologian's stubbornness.
  • Some undealt with sin.
  • God's timing.
This leads right into another quotable from Karl Barth, "The theologian can only have God for himself when he has God against himself." That is, true faith is held against all doubt. True faith says, I believe. Lord, help my unbelief. It is not a stubborn refusal of facts to the contrary. It is the act of holding on to facts that were true yesterday and allowing them to carry you into tomorrow.


Again, there is no way I got all of this down. I listened to the book and wrote this review from memory with only the quotes to guide me. This review is more impression than actual rendering of the writer's work.

So I would recommend that you go out and read this book for yourself. It is a tougher, rewarding read so be cautioned in that regard. Do not let it intimidate you. Read and get what you can out of it.

Note that Barth does not bother to defend basic questions in this book. He assumes that the Bible is authoritative and that God exists and that Theology is important, etc. He tackles the next steps after those things are sorted out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Free Audiobook - N.T. Wright

I never do this. This blog is not devoted to freebies. However, whenever I come across a freebie that pertains to our pursuit of Truth, I gladly pass it on. I don't know how long this offer will be available, but right now you can download N.T. Wright's audiobook: Hope in a Hopeless World from Noisetrade, presented by Regent College Audio.

I just downloaded it myself and I am in the middle of other books so I have no knowledgeable recommendation. All I can say is that I've heard a lot of good things about N.T. Wright from people I trust. So readers, here ya go! Don't say I never give you anything. ;-)
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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