The Bible: Our True North

In this social media/personal opinion driven culture we are in desperate need of truth. (Especially during election years.)

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked Jesus.

The great theologian, Foghorn Leghorn, used to say, “It’s more confusing than a termite in a yo-yo – which way is up?”

Satan is a smooth operator. He usually includes a nugget of truth in his lies. But, a half truth is still a whole lie.

Falling for slick rhetoric is nothing new.

Paul warned the Ephesian believers to study the scriptures so they could safely discern what was true from what wasn’t. As a result, he said,…

“We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (4:14)

Don’t be deceived or beguiled into believing what someone espouses just because it sounds convincing. Weigh everything against scripture.

What is truth? The Bible tells us…

“…the truth is in Jesus.” (Eph. 4:21)

“Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

“The sum of your word is truth.” (Ps. 119:160)

“I am the…Truth.” (Jesus Christ: John 14:6)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

When God Looks At Me What Does He See?

***Forgive me for the length of this post. I went back to trim & edit. But, I felt i needed to include every word.

This past year i attended a wedding. Expecting to simply enjoy seeing two friends united in matrimony, I sat there as the preacher officiating the wedding proceeded to call everyone in the audience (as well as the bride & groom) “sinners”, reminding us repeatedly how “unworthy” we were of God’s grace. Intent on making his point, this guy reminded us “sinners” of how “unworthy” we were over and over and over again. When the service was mercifully over, all I could think about was a famous quote by Mike Yaconelli: “We’ve all been to those churches that, when you leave, you feel worse about yourself than when you arrived.”

I’m not altogether clear as to this man’s purpose for repeatedly calling everyone sinners. If it’s for the purpose of conviction, only the Holy Spirit can bring that – so he would do well to leave that to the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) I’ve found some very well-meaning pastors either forgetting, or altogether not knowing, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

You may be thinking, “Nick, I’m a believer. But I still sin.” I know that. I’m fairly certain I’m worse than you are in the ‘sin’ category.” But my point is this: in Christ, our identity is no longer defined by what “we do,” but by what HE DID.

After that wedding, I came home and re-read through the four gospels (stories of Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection) just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. But what I found was this: not once did Yaconelli’s statement (cited above) apply to those He encountered. Not once. (This would include the religious leaders who hated Jesus. Because, even in their hatred for Jesus, they continued to feel “better” about themselves, being blindly self-righteous.)

However, in regard to the lost, the hurting, the hopeless, the searching – without compromising the slightest degree of His holiness & righteousness, Jesus helped everyone see themselves as God intended for them to be: His.

Let me ask you a question. If you’ve professed your faith in Jesus Christ, how righteous do you think you appear in God’s sight right this minute? The Bible says 100% (because of Him, and in spite of us). Paul wrote, “For our sake [God] made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Amplified)

NOTE: For those already angry with this post, reading furiously so they can get to the bottom of this “waste of digital ink” and correct me, reminding me that we are all “SINNERS saved by grace,” save your energy. I completely agree that the Bible’s clear: we were born a depraved, hopeless, degenerate, rebellious, selfish mess, possessing hearts that are “deceptively wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) No one had to teach us how to lie, hate, cheat, or be selfish – it all came naturally. C.S. Lewis called this “natural desire to sin” our “bent” as a human race. The Bible calls it “the flesh.” And we’re ALL born with it. Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, wrote, “All of us have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, due to our sin, before we put our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9), we were hopelessly separated from God.

However, a “sinner” is who I WAS. Not who I AM.

Do I still sin? Sadly, often. I’m a pathetic mess. But, in Christ, I’m a PERFECT MESS.

Like believers throughout the New Testament, for the remainder our lives on this fallen planet, we will continue to struggle with the “flesh” (our natural desire to sin with which we were born) until the moment we shed these “fallen bodies & minds”, and enter heaven. Romans 6:6 is clear: in Christ, we’re “no longer slaves to sin” (sin no longer masters us). But, until we enter paradise, we will inevitably battle with our flesh, the world’s sin-driven system, and satan as they, individually & collectively, attempt to lure us away from our commitment to following Jesus, our Savior. However, along with Paul, we’re able to shout, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

Writing of our new-found identity in Christ, Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians this way: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [believers] who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus,…”) This means I stood up in that wedding that afternoon and hollered, “Yo! Call me by biblical name: Saint Nick!” 🙂

So…. “When God looks at us, what does He see?” (Here’s a partial list…)

1. A saint [holy in His sight] (Ephesians 1:1)
2. His child (John 1:12)
3. His friend (John 15:15)
4. Justified [100% righteous] through Christ’s life, cross & resurrection (Romans 5:1)
5. His own possession, bought & paid for (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
6. A member of His own Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
7. One COMPLETELY forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)
8. A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

Final Note (to those who’ve never professed faith in Jesus Christ): When Paul wrote, “There is there now condemnation…” (Romans 8:1), he was describing those who’ve professed their faith in Jesus Christ. The other side of this truth is clear in these words spoken by Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Bottom line: “When God looks at a person who’s never professed their faith in Christ, what does He see?” He sees someone for whom He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ – but who has never trusted Christ and therefore, remains condemned. Trust Christ today. He loves you. So much.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“NOAH” (The Movie) – My take…..

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: Always keep the following in mind when reading someone’s (including my) review/commentary/opinion about a movie/a book/the Bible/anything: what you’re reading is simply some guy’s/gal’s opinion – an opinion that is based on the writer’s own world-views, convictions, & subjectivity. My son, Jordan, & I heard historian, Dr. Mike Licona (Ph.D) speak at TTU a year ago on the evidence in support of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Describing the ubiquitous “authority” available on the internet, Licona remarked, “Today, the only requirement one needs to be an ‘authority’ on the web is to be breathing.” Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” The answer to that question is the same today as it’s always been. In John 17, Jesus said to His Father, “…your word is truth.” (17:17) God’s Word: truth begins & ends there. Always weigh someone’s opinion (regardless of how good it may sound to you) against the single source of truth: the Word of God. The Bereans provide a great example of this. They knew that even Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, was just a man and, as such, fallible: Luke records in Acts:17:11 – [The Bereans] “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things [Paul was teaching] were so.” All of that said,….for those who care to know, here are my thoughts after viewing “Noah” this past weekend. (I’ve purposefully waited until “opening weekend” was over to post my thoughts/opinion so as to “let the dust clear” a little.)) WARNING: spoilers ahead.

1. ACTING: I thought the acting was extremely good. A lot of folks don’t seem to like Russell Crowe, but I’m such a “Gladiator” (2000) fan, I love him. And my son, Jordan, had a crush on Emma Watson, so I tend to love her as well.

2. MOVIE EXPERIENCE (if you have no regard for biblical truth): Excellent. My family LOVES going to the movies. What you have in “Noah” is a combination of “Lord of the Rings” (the fallen angels of Gen. 6 were Aronofsky’s version of the “Ents” – think: “Treebeard” in Movie #2 of the trilogy), “Transformers”, “Titanic”, “Mad Max”, & “Waterworld”, with a little bit of the biblical account of Noah thrown in. And, as a bonus, Methuselah is portrayed as a sort of newest member of “The Avengers.” By the way, as far as movie-making goes, I think Aronofsky is very talented.

3. ARTISTIC LICENSE: “Artistic license”, apparently, is a pseudonym not only for (1) filling in the “blanks”, i.e. periods of time not mentioned, and (2) bringing personal interpretation to events/topics that are clearly subject to interpretation, but also for (3) “re-writing the script.” I’ll address No’s 1 & 2 here, and No. 3 in the next section. No one knows (to list a few things) what the ark looked like exactly, in what manner exactly the animals entered the ark, what the flood actually looked like, how many threats to his life Noah received from marauding tribes, how “God shut the ark door,” or if Noah had mental breakdowns. So, I had no problem how these, and other like topics of Genesis 6-9 were portrayed (especially by a guy who’s a self-professed atheist). As a matter of fact, I thought Aronofsky did a wonderful job on these aspects of the story. If “artistic license” had stopped with these “nobody knows what these events looked like” parts of the movie, it would’ve been fine. But it didn’t.

4. REWRITING THE BIBLE: Just a few chapters before we ever hear of Noah, we have another scene in our Bible. In Genesis 3:1, we join Eve & the serpent in what seems like mid-conversation. Jesus, Himself, described Satan (the one personified in the serpent) as a liar…the “father of lies.” (John 8:44). And, in Genesis 3, we all get a front-row seat to see how deceptively slick satan is at “rewriting God’s Word”. It’s simple really. He includes just enough truth to make it sound right, and he then either adds to, subtracts from, or slightly twists/bends the “original script” so that his re-writing is almost undetectable. It bothers me that Islam is more protective of their Quran than some Christians are of our Bible (had something like this happened with a story from the Quran, there would’ve been outrage.) For example, I read one disappointing review from a solid Christian web site by an author who argued that we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize this movie since “Christians don’t ‘own’ the story of Noah.” I couldn’t agree more – we don’t “own” the story. But, neither does he, nor anyone else on this planet. The story of Noah is part of the canon of holy Scripture. It is not to be trifled with, added to, changed, twisted, or altered. “Every word of God is flawless,” wrote Solomon (Proverbs 30:5; cf. 2 Samuel 22:31) In yet another disappointing blog, the editorialist, using John 20:30 (“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book”), argued that these other (clearly non-biblical) aspects of Aronofsky’s movie could’ve actually happened since John wrote that there’s a lot of stuff that happened we don’t know about. But what the editorialist fails to do is to keep reading John’s gospel. In the very next verse (vs 31), John writes, “But these (events/words) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” In other words, God chose what he wanted in His “script” – nothing more, nothing less. Changing His script is not only disrespectful, but foolish. (cf. Revelation 22:18:21) I must confess, many of the reviews I’ve read by Christians (some who are “scholars”) have made me wonder, “Did they see the same movie I saw?” Because while they spend their time defending “artistic license”, they fail to state the most glaring – and obvious – issue: the writers re-wrote the biblical story of Noah. There are too many examples of “re-writings” to list here. But here are just a handful. Unlike what was portrayed in “Noah”, the Bible never mentions, nor implies that: (1) Methuselah was a super-hero, (2) the fallen angels [Rock People] were offered redemption, (3) there was a threat of human sacrifice on the ark, (4) man’s “sin” was against the “earth” instead of against “God’s righteousness,” (5) there was a command from God to Noah to rid the entire earth of mankind after the flood subsided. In fact, the opposite is true, (6) there were “stowaways” on the ark, or (7) Noah’s sons were not married when they entered the ark; both the Old & New Testaments affirm something completely different from what’s portrayed here in the movie, (cf.1 Peter 3:20); the Bible clearly records that the same eight people entered & exited the ark; those eight people are Noah, his wife, their three sons & their wives, But, the worst “re-writing of the Original Script” was yet to come, clearly communicated at the end of the movie. But, before I address that issue, I want to say that I have total respect for Aronofsky. In an interview with the Washington Post he told us that “Noah” was “the most unbiblical biblical movie ever made.” Aronofsky was honest. And he was right. (Washington Times; 3/24/14)

5. GOD IS GOD – NOT NOAH/MAN: It started in Eden – man’s notion that he/she knows better than God. Satan convinced Adam & Eve to tell God to “shove off, we know best.” Satan is a brilliant strategist, and his strategy/methods are no different today than they were in Eden. Reflecting on a non-biblical scene in the movie when Noah has decided that Ila’s (Emma Watson’s) twin girls will be killed so as to follow through with God’s command to rid the earth of mankind (again, this command doesn’t exist in the Bible), Noah is downtrodden since he couldn’t follow through with God’s execution command, allowing the girls to live. Ila, attempting to encourage Noah, tells him, “Don’t you see, God let you decide what was right and what was wrong.” (i.e. either rid the world of mankind, or allow the babies to live and help repopulate the earth.) And Satan sits back and thinks to himself, “Times have changed since Eden. But people remain the same; they want to be God and, in this movie, I’ll suggest that they can be.” Satan’s goal is to convince us to live our lives apart from God. He wants us to believe we’re inherently “good/righteous” before a holy God, able to decide for ourselves what is right & wrong/good & evil, and entirely capable of running things with – or without – God. But Paul wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away,…there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:20-21) Furthermore, the only thing that is different today from the time of Genesis 6-9, in regard to man’s wickedness, is God’s promise to never again wipe out the earth because of our wickedness. Mankind, today, is every bit as capable of the wickedness of Noah’s day. Centuries after Noah & the flood, Jeremiah wrote, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9) And Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts…” (Matthew 15:19) We’re made “righteous” through faith, alone, in the righteousness of Christ, alone. (Eph. 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20) The author of Hebrews reminds us that “faith, alone” in God is what gave Noah his status of righteousness. (cf. Hebrews 11:7) Noah’s obedience & righteous living was simply evidence of his faith in God. Without faith in Jesus Christ, in His redemptive work for us, we’re sunk. Which is why the next section is so very important in understanding Aronofsky’s interpretation of the story of Noah.

6. A CHRIST-LESS BIBLE: Bottom line, what we have in “Noah” is a motion picture without Jesus Christ in view. And that changes the entire Bible story. Before you respond, “Jesus isn’t even mentioned in Genesis 6-9!”, please know….I know that. But hear the words of Jesus, Himself: to the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, “….these very [Old Testament] Scriptures testify about Me!” (John 5:39) Again, in Luke’s gospel account, the resurrected Jesus explains to two sad travelers – who are trying to make sense of Christ’s crucifixion – that the entire Old Testament points to Him, and that God’s redemption of sinful mankind came through His crucifixion & resurrection: “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) Both of these statements by Jesus include “the writings of Moses”, which includes the story of Noah. It’s been said by scholars, “Christ is in the Old Testament concealed, and in the New Testament revealed.” The story of Noah, without being read in the greater context of all 66 books of the Bible, ends up being a very sad, almost hopeless, story about an enigmatic, cruel, psychotic God. One must read the greater context (the rest of the Bible). Because what you’ll find is that, centuries later, as prophesied through Isaiah, God would give us all an up-close view of who He is: the God who not only cares, but cared enough to “put skin on” and enter into the “horribly dark world” Noah endured – the horribly dark world we all now endure – and provide a way back to Him through faith, alone, in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, which God authenticated by means of Christ’s resurrection. Genesis 6-9 is but a small “paragraph” of God’s “love letter” to mankind. Noah’s story, alone, is a “horrible day.” But, a king named David would later write, “For [God’s] anger is but for a moment,….Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

7. DO I RECOMMEND SOMEONE SEEING THE MOVIE? If you want to have credible dialogue with a friend(s) who’ve also seen the movie, yes! If you want to learn more about the story of Noah, no. Read the book. It’s much better.

FINAL WORD: I’m no authority (as pointed out at the beginning). I’ve tried to offer commentary that is respectful to opposing opinions, as well as to Aronofsky.

Nick Watts

“Noah”

When it comes to the upcoming release of Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”, the Book is always going to be better.

Regarding the Washington Times article below, I’ll give Aronofsky this: at least he’s honest. And I actually respect that. Aronofsky is a self-professed atheist. So there are no surprises here (in the Times article). A person who believes the Bible’s a fairly tale, is going to present the Bible like it’s (you guessed it) a fairy tale.

I’ve also included a great blog actually written in October, 2012, by a Christian screenwriter who was given the opportunity to read through Aronofsky’s script of “Noah”. The blog is somewhat lengthy, but extremely insightful & helpful.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/24/atheist-noah-director-brags-film-least-biblical-bi/

http://godawa.com/movieblog/darren-aronofskys-noah-environmentalist-wacko/

Psalm 23 – “Bible Learning Series” Notes

Friends,

Below are the “series notes” to my series on Psalm 23. All that’s missing are additional comments I included while teaching. However, the “nuts & bolts” are here for your study.

Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,…” (Colossians 3:16)

May the verse-by-verse study of this simple, yet profound, passage of Scripture (1) provide the reader with a richer understanding of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and (2) give the reader a “hunger & thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) to “mine the treasure” of more of God’s Word.

NOTE: Because of time constraints I was forced to combine the teaching series into three sessions, teaching 2 verses at a time. However, in hindsight, considering the wealth of truth within each single verse, a six-week series (one verse per session) would’ve been more conducive to allowing the scripture to “soak in.” (I don’t know about you – but my limited mind can only take in so much at a time.)) That said, the notes divided into verse-by-verse sessions. Should you desire to read, or print, any of the notes simply click on the link. You’ll be taken directly to the PDF file. nw

Psalm 23 – Intro & Verse 1
Psalm 23 – Verse 2
Psalm 23 – Verse 3
Psalm 23 – Verse 4
Psalm 23 – Verse 5
Psalm 23 – Verse 6