The Gospel

3 Bible Passages to Study with Unbelievers

By Jordan Standridge. Reposted from The Cripplegate.

As time passes, I become more and more convinced that faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God.

No amount of evidence can convince someone about the truth of the Gospel. It is the Word of God, itself, that has the power to save and transform souls.

Because of this conviction, I love walking through Scripture with people whenever they permit me the time. And there are three passages in particular that I am usually drawn to, depending on the type of questions I receive throughout the conversation. So, here are my top three passages to study with unbelievers.

Matthew 5:21-30, 48

This one is especially helpful for people who don’t think their sin is that bad. This is a go-to passage for several reasons. It comes from the Savior’s mouth, Himself. It is designed to show much how deep man’s depravity truly is. And it ultimately places God as the standard that we should reach to, and, by doing so, shatters false religion in pieces.

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Why the God of the Qur’an Cannot Forgive Sins

Reposted permission, from The Cripple Gate.

Almost every system or religion proposes some sort of love. From systems in the east to the west, they feature some concept of love. Both the Qur’an and the Bible do so. They both teach that God is loving. But, what do they mean by love? And, what is it about the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible that renders them loving? Most assertions of love remain in realm of abstract or human-to-human benevolence. How can we tangibly measure love?

Today’s post is our sixth and final part of a series studying various differences between the sacred book of Islam, the Qur’an, and that of the Christianity, the Bible. In part one, we looked at a brief introduction to Quranic Islam, observing the development of the Quranic text. In part two, we noted the major differences between the God of the Qur’an and that of the Bible. Third, we studied nine differences between the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Bible. In part four, we observed the differences between the doctrine of salvation in the Qur’an and the Bible, noticing that the Qur’an teaches a works-based righteousness. Part five covered the difference between the integrity of the Qur’an and the Bible, noting a catastrophic conundrum for Quranic Islam. Finally, we examine the differences between the love of the God of the Bible and that of the Qur’an.

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From the Archives: Reasoning Outside the Box of Human Reason

Unless you reason outside the box of human reason, you can forget about understanding the Jesus of the Bible. Only those willing and able to break the constraints of common experience and human rationalism can hope to make any sense of Jesus’ life and ministry.

The birth narrative of Jesus demands that we think outside the box. We have no conceptual or experiential category for a woman conceiving a child without sperm from a man. But the biblical authors announce that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin named Mary by a direct act of God. We are to understand that although fully human, Jesus had no earthly, biological father—a reality Mary found no easier to grasp than we do (Luke 1:31-35).

Another mental box the Jesus of the Bible explodes is our understanding of kingship. Beginning with nursery rhymes and children’s stories and then attaining higher levels of historical awareness, we learn to conceive of kings as people born in palaces, attended by servants, and consumers of every luxury afforded by their culture. Kings rule their realms and lead armies. They conquer and reign, or at least try to.

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How to Become a Hypocrite

So you want to be a hypocrite … If you believe the gospel, you’re at a disadvantage. You may not ever achieve the elite-level hypocrisy we find in Matthew 23, which probably requires a Pharisee-like depth of unbelief. But don’t be discouraged. Even believers can achieve several forms of high-quality hypocrisy.

Since all humans lapse into hypocrisy from time to time without even trying, I’m confident that, with just a little work, even you can achieve a noticeable level of expertise.

Here’s how.

1. Get very comfortable with inconsistency.

Hypocrisy is more than inconsistency. True, in Matthew 23:3 Jesus faults the Pharisees because “they preach, but do not practice.” But consider the inconsistencies of Jesus’ hand-picked twelve. They were not consistently believing (Matt. 17:20, 14:31; John 20:25), or consistently compassionate (Matt. 19:13). They were certainly not consistently humble! (Luke 22:24, Matt. 26:33). But Jesus never called them hypocrites.

So, though it’s common practice to cherry pick perceived inconsistencies in others’ lives and call it hypocrisy, you won’t achieve the real thing unless you’re aware of your inconsistencies and get very good at rationalizing them away — maybe even coming to see them as virtues (1 Cor. 5:2).

2. Judge others by a higher standard than you judge yourself.

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (ESV, Matt. 23:4)

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Spiritual Zombies

Last year, another investigator and I headed down to Portland, Oregon, to interview a guy in an annuity fraud case. It was a pretty good case. The guy was an insurance agent. I had a man who’d come to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner claiming the agent had swindled his parents into buying an expensive indexed annuity and lied to them about why it was such an awesome product. The guy said this insurance agent had done this to his parents twice, in the space of two years.

These were working folks, blue collar. They didn’t know much about annuities, indexed investment strategies or guaranteed minimum income riders. Not many people do, and I don’t blame them. Reading annuity contracts is about as exciting as memorizing the World Book Encyclopedia

To make things worse, the wife had become sick not long after they bought the second annuity. They needed money, but the new annuity charged you a hefty fee if you bailed on it within 10 years. The old man tried to make it for a while, but eventually bit the bullet and surrendered the annuity. He ate about $10,000 in penalty charges. The wife went into the nursing home and died about nine months later.

The insurance agent made $12,000 on the two sales. He denied everything. “They wanted the annuity, and it was suitable for them!” he whined.  

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Carmageddon, Eruvs, and Working for Salvation

First appeared at The Cripplegate in 2011.

Carmageddon came and went, with no serious delays or deaths attributed to the temporary pause on LA’s car-craved culture. But of special note, Carmageddon did not even disrupt LA’s elaborate eruv network.

There is perhaps no contemporary illustration of the folly of man-made religion as absurd as the eruv, and if you are unfamiliar with an eruv, you are missing out. Because God forbid the Israelites from working on the Sabbath, the Talmud—not content to simply leave the concept of work up to the conscience—created an elaborate system to protect people from accidentally working on the seventh day.

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Two Lessons from Two Radically Different Funerals

By Jordan Standridge. Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Funerals are a gift from God. I know that sounds crazy, but they are a God-given tool to force us to reflect on the brevity of life, and how finite we are as human beings. I truly do believe that humans should attend as many funerals as possible during their lives. It is that good for your soul.

I had the privilege of attending two recently, and they could not have been more different from each other.

The first was that of a believer. One of the sons (who is an elder at our church) gave the eulogy, and the other son, who is a Presbyterian pastor, gave the message. At least 100 people were there. The second was for a non-believer. I had the privilege of giving the message at that one to a crowd of 10 people at the local funeral home.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the incredible difference between the two funerals. Both individuals were in their 80s, both had lived long lives full of experiences, and yet, the outcome of their funerals could not have been more different. Two reminders were very evident as I reflect on this particular “funeral Friday.”

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