What to Eat


Mankind has lived in a fallen state and in a fallen world ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. One dramatically different aspect to the Edenic Paradise was that Adam and Eve and the animals lived harmoniously amongst each other and were herbivores, or vegetarians.

Genesis Chapter One:

29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground -- everything that has the breath of life in it -- I give every green plant for food."
Recently, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an ad campaign that suggested eating meat was sinful. While the nature of the campaign was offensive to Bible-believing Christians, it was also simply misinformed.

After sin had so consumed the world, resulting in the Flood, God consecrated a new arrangement. He said to Noah: "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." (Genesis 9:3) But now man no longer lived harmoniously with the animals, as God made this proviso: "The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds..." (Genesis 9:2)

PETA claimed the person who came up with their campaign was a Christian, and they have insisted from time to time that Christianity promotes and encourages vegetarianism. Individuals who wish to use Christianity as a kind of vegetarian propaganda would do well to heed the Apostle Paul's words in Romans Chapter 14:
2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.
After His Resurrection, Jesus ate meat with the disciples. "They gave [Jesus] a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence." (Luke 24:42) Jesus abided perfectly in the Will of His Father; He lived a sinless life. A Christian man or woman can choose to have a vegetarian diet, but they do so for themselves, not to satisfy the Lord. As in the case of legalism, man, try as he might, cannot engineer his own salvation, nor the propitiation of his sins.

When PETA and others of its kind promote their misguided vegan moralism, it diverts attention from the real problem, which really does concern the treatment of animals. As society has moved away from its agrarian roots, people -- vegetarians and meat-eaters alike -- are disconnected from nature. They do not have a day-to-day appreciation of God's consecrated food chain for this fallen world. Even a secular book like "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser has shown just how stunning that disconnect is: animals treated as commodities on corporate farms, slaughtered in the most inhumane conditions.

The real sin is not the eating of meat, but man's willfully poor stewardship of God's creation. Mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) is an example of the consequences caused by man's disobedience. In the farming cultures of the past, men and women understood and appreciated that an animal's life was taken for their consumption.

One day, when Jesus rules in the Millennial Kingdom, the Edenic order will be restored and all mankind and animals will once again live harmoniously and eat only plants. "The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 11:7) But until that day comes, God has given men and women His blessing to consume meat which He "created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." (1 Timothy 4:3)

Born From Above


A journalist once asked Christian pastor and speaker Alistair Begg if he was "one of those born again Christian fellows." He replied, "Is there another kind of Christian fellow?"

Begg's pithy response cuts to the core of a widely held misconception that born again Christianity is some kind of sect of Christianity: doctrinally narrow-minded, uninformed, and wildly judgmental. The popular caricatures are the fire-and-brimstone preacher or the insinuating goody-goody à la Ned Flanders from the animated television program "The Simpsons."

While the phrase "born again Christian" does have a pejorative connotation in today's society, non-Christians are not wholly to blame for perpetuating misconceptions about it. The greatest damage is likely done by those who call themselves Christians and yet either mock or dismiss born again Christianity as being "too exclusive."

To truly understand what Christianity is — the real essence — one must go to the source. What really matters is the Biblical definition of a Christian. In fact, the term "Christian" was not part of Jesus' lexicon; it was "born again." The original Greek text in John reads as "gennao anothen," which literally means "born from above." In either version, Jesus is still referring to a second birth.

Consider this passage from John Chapter 3:

3 Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
6 "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"
This was not simply a matter of semantics. Nicodemus was confused on this very point because Jesus had literally said "born again." Jesus repeated these words so Nicodemus would be certain that is what He meant. To be born again means leaving the sinful self (the flesh) behind by receiving the gift of salvation (the Holy Spirit) bought for believers by Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross.

Men and women who receive Christ are therefore born again, "born from above." They have a new life in Christ as promised by God, to restore sinful men and women to His Holy Presence. The clearest example of being born again in the Bible comes in Acts Chapter 2 when the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

A person's born again experience varies. Some are emotional, some are not. But emotion is of the flesh. What Jesus has changed is on the inside — the spirit — that which man does not see.

True Christianity is not assumed, like a new fashion or philosophy; it is not initiated by intellect or emotion or a physical action like going to church. The individual must be ready to receive Christ's eternal salvation by first realizing their culpability in sin, their willful separation from God. While the wages of sin are death, Christ's gift is life everlasting. Man has nothing to do with being born again of the Holy Spirit. That is what sets it apart from all religion, philosophy, and false Christianity.

The Apostle John wrote in John Chapter One:
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —
13 Children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
If a Christian defines him or herself as one who believes in Christ's deity, His bodily resurrection, and who receives Him as their Lord and Savior, how could that same person reject Jesus' sole requirement for knowing Him? If a Christian rejects being born again of the Spirit, then what is their Christianity? Is it determined by man or by God? The Holy Spirit does not reject this blueprint, the world does. Jesus prescribed being "born from above" as the only way to be restored to the Kingdom of Heaven.

By its very terminology, "born again" means a beginning. The new believer does not stop at salvation. They mature in their relationship with Christ, but that relationship cannot occur without a beginning. There are practical applications of salvation — steps to maturation — and they include reading God's Word, fellowship with believers, and, often ignored but especially important, following God's plan for one's personal growth down to the smallest thing (from life goals to everyday decisions). And while submission to Christ in every detail of life is the hallmark of Christian maturity and stewardship, it is still an extension of being born again. Herein one arrives at the beginning and the most important choice a person makes in their entire life.

America the Beautiful?


The rise of worldwide enmity towards the U.S. should cause followers of Christ to take notice — not of these other countries but of America itself. The mainstream media around the world (including in the U.S.) characterizes the United States as being too imperialistic, capitalistic, immoral, grasping, arrogant, or just simply out of touch with the rest of the world. These criticisms must be looked at seriously, but believers need to look beyond the pat sociopolitical reasons and recognize the spiritual forces at work.

2 Chronicles Chapter 20:

18 Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.
In this Old Testament story, God delivered the people of Judah from their enemies because they abided in His will. But today's America has strayed so far from its Biblical foundations that it functions outside the will of God. America has engendered, and exposed itself to, malice from enemies and allies alike, primarily as a result of its increased rebellion against God and less so the current sociopolitical climate.

America continues to maintain its status as an influential and powerful nation, but it's a kingdom built on sand. Secularists believe they can move America in the direction of a "brave new world," to follow the path which Europe has already taken. The paradigm for America today is secular humanism, based on faith in the progress of man (or, the Neitschzean "superman"). The paradise of men by men is a foolhardy dream: mankind is ever more enslaved to sin when it believes it can will itself to perfection. Man's will is death; God's will is life.

For the United States, conforming to the humanist credo has meant the systematic shedding of its Christian roots. In order to buy into the concomitant concept of globalism, America relinquished true autonomy and the freedom to act unilaterally. It hasn't happened overnight. In the post-WWII globalist climate over the past 60 years, America has clearly strayed from its Judeo-Christian foundation: gross materialism, the sexual "revolution," and imperialistic wars are just a few signposts of that drift.

This is not to say the U.S. was ever perfect — far from it. As an example, the Civil War highlights one of America's darkest historical chapters and one of its greatest sins: slavery. Modern revisionism, however, has greatly reduced the extent to which morality, specifically Christianity, played a part in the execution of that war. It is historically accurate to say that Abraham Lincoln wished to prevent secession and preserve the integrity of the Union. But it is an incomplete picture.

What contemporary history books don't say is Lincoln understood the great price that had been paid, and would be paid, in the Biblical sense, for America's sin of slavery. In his second inaugural address from March 1865, Lincoln said this, "Yet, if God wills that [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

The secularists do not acknowledge that, ultimately, men are instruments of God's will. Indeed, the actions of a nation are inherently complex. Men and women in power may posit a reason for action that belies its real purpose. So it could be argued that Lincoln may have been saying what the people "wanted to hear" at that time. But it doesn't matter. God may use an individual for an entirely different purpose from what they have in mind. The point is, Lincoln understood that America would inevitably be held in judgment for its sins regardless of why the Civil War was being waged.

Psalms Chapter 33:
14 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord...
The sins of the past have merely been replaced by new ones. The so-called "enlightened" progress of humanity does not exist. But there is one glaring difference between the America of 1865 and the America of 2004, and that is, sin is no longer regarded as sin. There is a fundamental lack of awareness of sin in contemporary society, and therefore no understanding of Divine Judgment. If there is any awareness, it is offset by another blinding element: apathy.

The mainstream media and the entertainment world argue that America's Christianity is what has alienated it from the rest of the world. But the America of today is fragmented. The U.S. exports its own decay (in the form of its popular culture) to other countries while still pretending to be a Christian nation, or at the very least, still pretending to possess some kind of moral authority. Yet the U.S. itself has no moral unity, much like in the antebellum period — except that the divisions today are along a thousand more fault lines.

If America is to win back the love of its friends and the respect of its enemies, it needs to return to its Christian roots. America has lost its way at the spiritual level, and truly there is where its wars must first be waged.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians Chapter 10:
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Legalism vs. the Message of Easter


Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus Christ's Resurrection, is this weekend. The message of the Resurrection, the touchstone for believers, is powerful. Jesus' victory over Death gives every man, woman, and child the opportunity to experience a relationship with the Living God. He is not an impersonal God.

Jesus is alive today, and He wants us to truly love Him. Yet, instead of knowing the Lord, man sometimes places his faith in God's Law. By doing so, he willfully separates himself from God. This is what is known as legalism.

Paul wrote in Romans Chapter 3:

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
The born-again believer is sanctified by Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary, not by the Law. This is no condonation of lawlessness nor a call to licentiousness (note Romans 3:31 above). However, the walk with Christ must be paramount. Obedience to the Law in and of itself cannot effect (in the causal sense) this walk; it is a reflection, a corollary, of a relationship with Jesus.

Jesus said He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. God's rules are the same at the beginning of time as they are now. The introduction of sin drove a wedge between man and God. The Law is of God. Without Christ the Redeemer, man is outside the presence of God. Consequently, no person can ever fully know or satisfy God's Laws to perfection. And perfection is God's standard.

Upon the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30). Through the sacrifice of the Son, man was redeemed to the Father. Spiritually, mankind is dead to sin, and sin has already wrought upon man the inevitable physical death. But by Jesus' blood atonement, men and women avoid the second death, that is, the death of the soul.

Oswald Chambers, the insightful Scottish Christian teacher of the early 20th century, spoke of a subtle trap that Christians often fall into: making a god out of one's personal holiness. He said, "As long as our eyes are upon our own personal whiteness we shall never get near the reality of Redemption." For the smallest sin is enough to separate man from God and condemn him.

Contrary to the modern myth that man seeks truth, the Bible teaches that man does not, and cannot, seek the true God by his own volition, nor his own device. Since the Fall, men and women have created their own paths to righteousness, paths they believe will sanctify them before God. In its most developed form, this is what is called religion. The Christian faith is a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God. No religion, no earthly work, can justify an individual before the Living God.

The Pharisees in the time of Jesus were an example of legalism, but they are assuredly not the only example. Legalism applies to any man or woman trying to reach God or godliness by their own devices.

The legalist's mind is similar to the libertine's mind: he simply cannot get out of his own way. The legalist and the libertine see only the word on the page. Whilst the legalist searches for rules, the libertine searches for loopholes to those rules. Both resist God's will and His sovereignty over their lives. God's Word speaks to the indwelt Holy Spirit of the believer, and it can stir the God-given conscience of an unbeliever. The sinful flesh (i.e. the mind and body) of man, however, resists the Word.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit changes the believer from within. From that point on, that individual seeks to strengthen their relationship with the Lord. By loving the Lord, he or she is filled with a desire to obey Him, as well. By extension, the Law is obeyed. And as their love for the Lord is emboldened, the believer becomes a beacon of God's light — to ever increasing degrees and as befitting that particular individual. "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17)

It is important to remember the order here: the action, the works, the person's identity follow submission to Christ. Legalism or "churchianity" is a reversal of that order because they claim man can come to know Christ by works (or the workings of his intellect). The legalist therefore exalts the Self; he mistakenly believes man's deeds can propitiate God for his sinful nature. Yet this is an affront to the message of the Resurrection. It is only by faith through God's grace that man is able to have a relationship with the Lord.

So a person must be right with God. 2,000 years ago, God sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to atone for man's sin once and for all so that man, His created being, could be restored to the presence of the Living God. Because one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus believed upon Him, the Lord said to the man, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

The Cult of Celebrity


The term "cult" usually refers to a heretical religious group. In the mainstream context, cult has also come to mean "small and marginalized." But apologetics sites such as Contender Ministries provide Scripture-based evidence to suggest that latter definition is not entirely adequate.

There exists in today's society a cult that is neither small nor marginalized. It is commonly referred to as the cult of celebrity.

With the advent of worldwide communication in the past 100 years — specifically in the media of film, television, popular music, and most recently the internet — celebrity has become a far-reaching phenomenon.

Isaiah Chapter Two:

8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.
The cult of celebrity does not exist in a vacuum. It cannot be dismissed as without harm. Today's men and women consciously feed the celebrity machine, not only by what they consume, but by what they believe. Modern identities are formed less and less by worshipping God and more and more by worshipping men and women.

A keen observer will argue that no intelligent, free-thinking, self-possessed individual would ever willfully worship another human being. But man is not equipped with a plenary free will. From an early age, men and women's identities are formed. The pervasive nature of today's popular culture inculcates in children the need to identify with the celebrity. Their focus is not on God but on man, and these patterns can remain uninterrupted through adulthood.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians Chapter Ten:
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
The cult of celebrity not only leads men and women to worship others but to worship themselves. In modern society, people have come to expect their time in the spotlight or "15 minutes." The current popularity of so-called "reality" programming is a testament to today's obsession with celebrity.

It is not unusual to find that modern man, pop culture savvy and literate, has a more intimate relationship with his favorite celebrity than with the Living God. So ingrained is the cult of celebrity that the average individual can recite to you the details of the celebrity's personal and public lives, simply as a matter of course.

The issue is not fame or success or even the existence of celebrity; the issue is the worship of those things. Worship does not occur only within the confines of hallowed walls. Worship is a state of being.

Jesus said in John Chapter 14:
6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.