The Biggest Problem in the Church Today (Part II)

“When Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), surely he intended at the very least for us to read “every word,” for how can we “live . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of God” if we’ve never even read “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”? [1]

This is Part II of The Biggest Problem in the Church Today. If you haven’t yet read Part I, I would suggest clicking this link so you can read the first portion of this article, where I set the framework for how biblical illiteracy has become such an issue in America.

In this article I am going to move forward in explaining the issue of biblical illiteracy, and why I believe it is the biggest problem in the church today. First, I’m going to discuss the consequences of biblical illiteracy, and then for a short while I will discuss why the habit of reading Scripture is so imperative.  

So, let’s just get into it.

Here are FIVE reasons why biblical illiteracy is detrimental to both Christians, and the church as whole.

  1. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to sin.
  2. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand God.
  3. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand theology.
  4. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to being influenced by false teaching.
  5. Those who don’t read Scripture make the church more susceptible to apostasy.

1. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to sin.

I’ll be sure to go to Scripture to back up all these claims by the way. Let’s go to Psalm 119:11!

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I may not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

What are the reasons for the author of this psalm to “store up” God’s word in his heart?

So that he will not sin against God.

The author (perhaps David) found it clear that an ignorance of God’s word will only breed behavior that is contrary to God’s commands.

Scripture makes it very clear to us that we have a sinful nature. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:10b-11).

We are sinful by our very nature and we lack understanding – we lack truth. If we’re not living in truth then we are deceived, and if we are deceived then sin is crouching at our door.

This is why God gave us the Bible in the first place. God gave us Scripture so that we could come to the knowledge of the truth and find redemption through faith. Romans 10:17 says “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We find our faith through the words that God has given us in the Bible. Without his word there is no possibility for restoration or redemption, for there is no knowledge of the truth. There is only a world full of sin and deception.

But Christ “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). He has given us his word so that we may “have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10), he has preserved it and promised that it will never pass away (Mk. 13:31), and thus he expects for us to read it and to read it daily. For as it is written, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).

Thus, however often our flesh is fed our soul must be fed twice over. We do this through the continual sanctifying that we receive through God’s word. As Christ has said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).

Or more eloquently spoken that I…

“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” – D. L. Moody

2. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand God.

There is an uncanny amount of false conceptions that exist throughout our culture about the nature of God.

Why is this so?

Because people fail to read God’s word. The Bible is our primary source for understanding God. When we fail to read God’s word, we leave ourselves with the innate inability to understand who God is.

What are some of these false conceptions about the nature of God?

That he is a tyrant. That he is unjust. That he isn’t omnipotent. That He, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are entirely different beings. That he is at fault for the current, chaotic state of the world. Oh, here’s one:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” [2]

Do any of these claims contend to be accurate when contrasted with what is written in Scripture?

Of course not.

The Bible tells us that:

God is just: “God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.” – Job 34:12

God is merciful: “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” – Psalm 86:5

God is omnipotent: “Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” – Isaiah 43:13

God is a triune God: (Genesis 1:26, John 1:1-3, 1 Corinthians 12:4-62, Corinthians 13:14, Colossians 1:15-16)

This list goes on and on…

God is so many things, so many good things. And we can never expect to understand everything there is no know about him. But what we can know about him is enough for this life, and he has disclosed all that we need to know about him in his word. If we fail to read his word, then how can we ever expect to know that which he desires us to know?

And he desires for us to read all of it. He expects us to read all of it. He didn’t give us the entirety of Scripture with the expectation that we would only read some of it. He gave us the entirety of Scripture with the expectation that we would read the entirety of Scripture.

And this ties into my next point:

3. Those who don’t read Scripture can’t understand theology.

Theology is the ‘study of all things God.’ If we don’t read the Bible, which is the primary source for all theology (all good theology that is), then we hamper our ability to attain a fruitful understanding of theology.

Why is theology important?

I’m glad you asked.

Allow me to first say this: Theology is not reserved to be studied by merely seminary students and Charles Spurgeon.

And the title of theologian is not to be claimed exclusively by those in the pulpit and other clergymen. The title of theologian is to be claimed by every follower of Christ, for a follower of Christ is expected to be a theologian. After all, Christ refers to us as his “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9); we are his saints (Eph. 2:19).

If theology is the study of all things God, and I am a follower of the one true God, then I must make it my mission to understand all that there is to know about he who I follow. This is the quest that we are all called to undertake. But if we attempt to commence this quest without the Bible in hand, then that which we understand about God, ourselves, the rest of the world, and how we all fit together, will be inexorably fallacious.

It is theology (or the lack thereof) that affects everything that we do. Theology shapes our worldview – the greater our understanding, the more accurate our worldview. The more depraved our understanding, the more deceived is our worldview.

The question is: where do we want to fall in on this spectrum, Enlighted or Deceived?

Our understanding of theology will decide.

My final point on this is that we shouldn’t imagine ourselves to be able to be well-versed in Scripture while lacking in our understanding of theology, and we cannot expect to call ourselves a theologian if we never pick up the Bible. A solid understanding of sound theology and the proper reading of Scripture are two disciplines that together are inseparable.

And it is our worldview and those who we influence who are at stake.

Christ has never intended for us to live in darkness and deception, and for that he has given us his word.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105

4. Those who don’t read Scripture are more susceptible to being influenced by false teaching.

Yes, the failure to read Scripture will leave you with a scantiness of theological understanding. However, another issue is that you leave yourself quite vulnerable to believing in false teachings.

Did you know that the warning to look out for false teachers is mentioned in almost every book of the New Testament? Yes, false teachers are mentioned in every NT book except Philemon.

And it’s not just that we are merely given warnings about false teachers, we’re given the Bible as a whole. Thus, if we discipline ourselves to habitually read the Bible, then we will be quick to detect those who speak what is contrary to the truth written in the Bible.

It is remarkable how many false gospels still exist in the world despite the Bible having been complete for almost 2,000 years. You would think that we would all be on the same page by now (pun intended), but we’re not. Many professing Christians are proving themselves to not even be on page one of Scripture, and they do so every time they fall for a counterfeit gospel. And yes, counterfeit gospels and false teachers are very prevalent, as well as their influence, which is marked by the great number of those following them.

This is truly an unfortunate reality. And it will continue to be a reality for as long as there are people who fail to read the Bible for themselves.

Scripture warns us that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4: 3-4).

This is the warning for our generation, and every generation to come.

It is when we fail to read the Scriptures for ourselves that we leave ourselves vulnerable to believing in any one of the multitudes of false gospels that have been devised specifically for those with “itching ears”. Our hyper culture and technological advancements; smartphones at our immediate disposal, have rid us with the desire to slow down and read the Bible for ourselves. We don’t want to take the time to see if we’ve been given a passage out of context, and we’re often too soft to take Jesus’ words at face value (que the prosperity gospel). We want to hear what sounds nice and what makes us feel better. It is the ears that “itch” that yearn to hear from teachers who “suit their own passions”.

And to quickly strike that note about taking passages out of context, this is where the need for sound theology comes into play once again. It is essential that we discipline ourselves to read the entirety of Scripture so that we can understand any given passage based on the context of the entire storyline of Scripture.

5. Those who don’t read Scripture make the church more susceptible to apostasy.

Apostasy is the word that is used to describe the renunciation of Christianity. If a member of the Christian faith were to shift their beliefs to the complete abandonment of the faith, that person would be considered an apostate.

I want to make this point here very brief. And I do so because many of the other points previously listed give credence to this one. For instance, false teaching quickly leads to apostasy, as well as a misunderstanding of sound theology and the failure to understand who God really is. So, I wish to make this one brief, not because it is of any less importance, but because it’s so correlated to all of the other reasons why reading Scripture is so important.

Here it is:

The church is more susceptible to apostasy when people don’t read Scripture, because we wouldn’t have the church if we didn’t have Scripture.

Without Scripture, how would we know how to function as a church? How would we even know the word church?

We wouldn’t.  

Once again “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Without the word of Christ, there is no faith. It is the power of the proclamation of the gospel that people come to believe in the true and living God.

The less we read Scripture, the weaker we ought to expect our faith to become. The complete abandonment of reading Scripture, the complete abandonment of the faith. Faith and the reading of Scripture are two inseverable constituents that are integral to the Christian life. Any disciple of Christ; anyone yearning to follow his teachings, do all that he says, and submit all their authority to Christ alone will fail to do so unless they are deliberately feeding on the word of God for sustenance and direction.

Some final thoughts on the importance of reading Scripture.

Scripture has been handed to us by the Lord of the universe, as a gift.

And he has done so through an immeasurable effort. The Bible was written over the course of 1,400 years, across 3 different continents, in 3 different languages, and written by over 40 different hands. And it’s cohesive. Not only cohesive, it’s in fact the most hyperlinked text on planet earth.

God has given much time and effort to gift us the invaluable words from his very breath.

It is the most remarkable book ever written, for it is the only book to ever be written by God himself.

What a blessing it is to have these words so readily available to every single day.

Last of all, try ruminating on this thought for a moment: If The Fall never happened, would there even be a Bible?

Answer: Nope.

The Bible exists because of The Fall. The Bible is “God’s story about his plan to rescue, redeem, and restore what was lost in the fall of humanity.” [3]

The Bible exists so that we can get from where we are now to heaven.

It’s not just wise to read it, it’s obligatory that we read it, for we most desperately need it.

[1] Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. (Colorado Springs, CO.: NavPress, 2014).

[2] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (Boston, MA.: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006).

[3] Gutierrez, Ben, Chris Hulshof and John Cartwright. (Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2016).

The Biggest Problem in the Church Today (Part I)

What is the biggest problem in our church today? Is it greed? Infidelity? The prosperity gospel? (maybe). To be honest, I can’t know for sure which is the biggest problem in the church, but I know there’s more than one. Nevertheless, if you take a good look at all the issues that do often emerge in the American church, you can rather accurately trace them all back to one overarching issue: biblical illiteracy.

Yes, biblical illiteracy is indeed appearing to be an issue in the American church, and it’s growing.

What is biblical illiteracy? Well, it’s not to suggest that the vast majority of American’s can’t read. Americans can read. They just choose not to, especially when it comes to the Bible. So, to say that our country has become biblically illiterate is to simply say that we are currently suffering from a mass deprivation of the knowledge of God’s word.

A recent, non-partisan survey has reported that “more than one-third of adults (35%) reports never using the Bible in 2019, a 10 percentage point increase since 2011 (25%).”[1] Other, Christian surveys have reported that less than half of regular church attendees read the Bible more than once a week,[2] and a third of Americans are not even willing to read the Bible on their own.[3]

What’s even worse than the numbers are the results of biblical illiteracy that have been made apparent in other reports. For instance, 44% of Americans report that pre-marital sex isn’t a sin, 40% percent believe that abortion is acceptable, 42% believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is no longer applicable, 53% percent believe the Bible is fallible, and 77% believe that salvation is through works. [4]

You might be thinking that most of these statistics don’t seem all that bad since they include all Americans. True. However, other surveys will frequently reveal that when it comes to Christians specifically, only 19% read the Bible every day, and a whopping 80% of professing Christians (every 4 out of 5) claim to only read the Bible on Sundays.[5]

The point is that biblical illiteracy exists in our country and specifically in our churches, and it’s a growing issue. We should all be asking ourselves “how have we allowed this to happen?” Because we need to know how this issue has come about if we ever wish to fix it.

How has biblical illiteracy become an issue?

When I begin to think about the issue of biblical illiteracy I can’t help but think of all the dystopian books that have been written, and how they all make strong mention of irreverence towards literature as being a large variable that contributes to the fall of society.

Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, has said that the real message behind the book was the threat that mass media can and will impose toward people’s interest in reading literature.[6] Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, saw that people “will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”[7] And George Orwell presented a theme in his novel 1984 that suggests the implications of a society that has lost truth in literature and instead relies on the media’s use of propaganda for new information.

Whereas none of these dystopian narratives accurately characterize our current state, they all heed strong warning of the consequences of a society that has taken its reverence towards literature and given it away to mass media and various forms of technology and entertainment.

And that is what I’m claiming.

I’m claiming that Americans have lost interest in the Bible (and therefore are not reading it) because they have placed their priorities elsewhere.

And it’s not only that people aren’t reading the Bible, it’s that they’re hardly reading at all.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics came out with a recent survey that revealed that the average American reads for less than 10 minutes a day. That same survey also revealed that the average American watches 2 hours of television a day. Think about it. That’s roughly an hour of reading per week compared to 14 hours of television per week. Not to mention (however I will mention), 1 in 4 Americans have not read a book in the past year.[8]

It would appear that we have misplaced our priorities.

So, where have our priorities ran off too? Well, just look at where we devote our free time:

Thinking about work, checking emails, checking the weather, checking Facebook, checking Instagram, checking Snapchat, checking whatever else, online shopping, playing video games, watching television, watching movies, watching our bank account, sleeping in, reading Scripture (hopefully).

Check out any statistic on how Americans spend their time. You’ll find that only 15 percent are spending their free time on any form of “religious activity.”[9]

The results are in.

So, can we just admit that we as Americans might just have a priority issue? And that that priority issue is leading to less reading? And that less reading naturally results in what I’m referring to as biblical illiteracy? And that biblical illiteracy leads to…well, we will get to that next week.

In the meantime, stay in Scripture and stay tuned for Part II, where I will discuss why biblical illiteracy is such an issue in the church and what we can do about it.

And here is a verse for the day, so we can all claim that we read some Scripture today.😊 

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

[1] Barna Group.  (April 18, 2019). “State of the Bible 2019: Trends in Engagement.” Barna. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from

 [2] Stetzer, E. (July 6, 2015). “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches.” Christianity Today International. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from

 [3] Smietana, B. (April 15, 2017). “LifeWay Research: Americans Are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read It.” Lifeway Research. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from

 [4] Smietana, B. (September 27, 2016). “What Do Americans Believe About God? New Study Explores Our Theology.” Facts & Trends. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from

[5] Weber, J. (September 07, 2012). “80% of Churchgoers Don’t Read Bible Daily, LifeWay Survey Suggests.” Christianity Today International. Retrieved May 18, 2019, from

 [6] Boyle, A. (May 30, 2007). “Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted.” LA Weekly. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from

[7] Postman, N. (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York City: Viking Books.

[8] Perrin, A. (March 23, 2018). “Who Doesn’t Read Books in America?” Pew Research. Retrieved May 17, 2019, from

[9] Libresco, L. (June 24, 2015). “Here’s How Americans Spend Their Working, Relaxing and Parenting Time.” FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved May 18, 2019, from

Do We Really Need Apologetics?

I felt it quite worth the mention to bring up the sometimes-controversial topic of apologetics. For some, apologetics is unnecessary – regarded as being a contradiction of faith. For others, maybe apologetics is all about winning arguments. However, regardless of the many presuppositions of apologetics, it is important to first consider all the arguments before committing to opinion. So, I’ve taken the liberty to list FIVE arguments that I think are worth considering before formulating an opinion about the necessity of apologetics.  

1. It’s a biblical mandate to gain an understanding in apologetics.

The term “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which means to ‘make a reasonable defense.’ The often-cited verse for this claim is 1 Peter 3:15, which says “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Thus, we know it is a biblical command, a command from God, to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us.

However, please note that this verse also prescribes the condition in which the defense is being given. 1 Peter 3:15 says that we are to make a defense to anyone who asks. This is an important distinction to be made. Don’t believe that apologetics is to be used in an ostensibly offensive manner, for that is contrary to the meaning of apologia. Apologia is to “make a defense.” And all the while, we are to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” and give our defense “with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics is not about winning arguments, it’s about responding to the questions of a skeptic with reason and respect.

2. Apologetics is necessary for evangelism.

Evangelism, deriving from the Greek euangelion, meaning “the good news”, is another biblical command. Evangelism is the work that is fulfilled from obeying the biblical command to go and to share the “good news,” which is the gospel message. This command is given to us in many places in Scripture, to name just a few: Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, and Matthew 9:37-38.

The command to evangelize only gives more credence to the need for apologetics, because apologetics is often a necessary step before presenting the gospel. Not only is it often a necessary step, it’s the perfect intro to present the gospel with – to present it as a clear and reasonable discussion! If someone were to ever ask you why it is that you’ve decided to be a Christian, it means they’re curious (or potentially seeking to be argumentative, but nevertheless it’s an opportunity to present your answer). Therefore, it is necessary to grasp a good understanding of apologetics, so you can answer the questions that are to come. Just think of it as ‘pre-evangelism’; a necessary step before evangelism.

3. Studying apologetics strengthens your personal conviction.

For far too long surveys have been revealing the large number of youths that leave the church after high school. Most surveys report numbers higher than 75%. Why is this so? Maybe it’s because “college professors are five times more likely to be atheists than the general public.” [1] Is that why? Perhaps, but probably not. College professors can hold the ability to promote a secular or naturalistic worldview if they wish, but that influence is only going to leave an impact on the mind of a student who doesn’t have a strong conviction behind their own belief system. So, “it’s not so much that Christian minds are lost at college – it’s that Christian minds rarely get to college.” [1]

Apologetics is necessary because many Christians lack an understanding of the origin of their own Christian world view. True? I think so. Many Christians never even discover apologetics until after their profession of faith, they “simply responded to the proclamation of the gospel.” [2] In other words, a lot of proclamations of faith are simply the consequence of an experiential “God-moment.” There is nothing wrong with this, for that is the power of the gospel, but this kind of conviction can often be explained away by someone whose goal it is to do so. This is where apologetics helps to increase personal conviction. Apologetics gives us the ability to defend our own conviction by providing us with the cosmological, biblical, historical, archaeological, and moral evidence that points us towards Christ’s existence.

4. Studying apologetics will increase your ability to articulate your personal conviction effectively.

This is a big one, and a bit of a follow-up on the last-mentioned point. Gaining an understanding of apologetics allows you to not only amplify our own personal conviction, but in the pursuit of doing so you will begin to acquire a proclivity towards articulating why it is that you believe. In other words, an increase in the knowledge of apologetics will produce the ability to speak about things that are related to apologetics, quite naturally (and perhaps a bit too obvious, but still worth noting).

To stress this point a bit further, I feel it’s necessary to mention the harsh actuality that Christians are not commonly thought of as individuals who are capable of presenting a reasonable defense for why they believe in the Christ. This observation, I will admit, is rather conjectural and only based on anecdotal evidence but I believe it’s true. And it’s not a fact that I am elated to propose, nevertheless I’m proposing it because I believe it’s ostensibly (and unfortunately) true. The bottom line is that Christians shouldn’t just be advised to study apologetics, we should feel obligated as Evangelicals to have the ability to speak eloquently when it comes to the topic of our faith and our conviction thereof. Afterall, there exists the command to “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6).

5. Studying apologetics grants discernment towards false teaching and prevents apostasy.

Apologetics goes deeper than merely defending the faith against the questions of skeptics. Since apologetics deals with defending the faith, it’s breadth of learning goes far beyond making cases for creationism or objective morality. Again, apologetics is concerned with “defending the faith.” This means that there will be moments when you should be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, and there will be times when you should be able to make a defense to anyone who seeks to undermine the gospel and propose false teachings. This distinction could be referred to as external vs. internal apologetics.

It should be mentioned that every book within the New Testament except Philemon gives warning against false teaching and apostasy. [3] In Jude we are told that false teachers have “crept in [the church] unnoticed” and therefore we must “contend for the faith.” This word “contend” leaves us with no room to believe that this is a command for passivity. This is a command to all believers, and it is the command to contend, fight, maintain, and struggle for the faith. The command is given because false teachers will always be a threat to the church. Therefore, it is every Christian’s directive to be biblically-educated and to remain watchful over the flock. It is those who are biblically illiterate and lacking in theological discernment, those who are unable to make a defense that remain susceptible to being swept away by false teaching.

Noteworthy quotes about apologetics

“The charge of the Christian is not to withdraw from the world and lead an insular life. Rather, we are to be engaged in the culture, to be salt and light. The solution to this problem is for believers to become informed in doctrine, the history of their faith, philosophy, logic, and other disciplines as they relate to Christianity. They need to know the facts, arguments and theology and understand how to employ them in a way that will effectively engage the culture. In short, the answer is Christian apologetics.”Doug Powell

“If Christians continue to rely on emotion and ignore evidence, they will continue to lose their children to secularism. As Ravi Zacharias points out, a tepid Christianity cannot withstand a rabid secularism. And make no mistake – secularism is rabid. The world isn’t neutral out there. Today’s culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Every day the media and academia pound out an incessant drumbeat against the Christian faith, some to the point of mockery. They depict Christianity as completely unreasonable.”Frank Turek

“For me, apologetics proved to be the turning point of my life and eternity.  I’m thankful for the scholars who so passionately and effectively defend the truth of Christianity – and today my life’s goal is to do my part in helping others get answers to the questions that are blocking them in their spiritual journey toward Christ.”Lee Strobel

“Moreover, Christians must be pastoral in their apologetic practices. We must care deeply for the lost, not simply desire to defeat their arguments. The stakes are too high for apologetic one-upmanship.”Douglas Groothius  

“This, then, is the ultimate apologetic. For the ultimate apologetic is: your life.”William Lane Craig

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.”Paul, Philippians 1:6b

[1] Turek, Frank. Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. (Nashville, TN.: NavPress, 2014), xxvi.

[2] Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. (Nashville, TN.: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 7.


Commentary | Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV)


The Lord is my shepherd;” – The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd,” in the Hebrew language is Jehovah Rohi, one of God’s many titles. Jehovah, or Yahweh, is the most common name for God used throughout Scripture and appears in the English translations as LORD, all capitalized. Jehovah (or Yahweh) is the one name in Scripture that God gives to himself, during his encounter with Moses in Exodus 3. Moses asks God’s name and God responds saying, “I AM WHO I AM” (Jehovah). Thus, God reveals himself as the great “I am.” For he is all there really is; nothing exists without him. He is the eternal creator of the universe, and he has chosen to reveal himself to us. The second title, Rohi, is the Hebrew word for “shepherd.” When we say “the Lord is my shepherd,” we are really saying Jehovah Rohi. To call God, Jehovah Rohi, is to call him the Chief Shepherd; the shepherd of our souls. He is our ultimate caregiver and protecter; He is our shepherd.

i shall not want.” – To ‘not want’ is to have, and to have is to not lack. We say “I shall not want,” because we lack nothing (in fact, the NIV writes this verse to say “I lack nothing”). We can rest assured that we lack nothing as long as we have Christ in our life, at the center of our life. Christ is the Good Shepherd, and “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). Christ has never once failed to show his love and provision for us. He has given his life in exchange for ours; there is nothing that we should want more than Christ.

When we have Christ, we have meaning and purpose. When we have Christ, we find satisfaction and fulfillment in life. When we have Christ, we have everlasting life. Thus, if we truly have faith in Christ, then we will find contentment. For the hallmark of our faith in Jesus is our contentment in life, because we know that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to him.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.” – Remember that this is the “Shepherd’s Prayer”, and that it is our prayer that we offer up to the Good Shepherd – meaning that it is we who are the sheep. The nature of sheep is that they are foolish, stubborn, and timid. Sheep are no good at leading themselves, they are slow to listen, and they are often overruled with fear. That is, unless their shepherd is in their midst, proving to them that they are secure. We are all like sheep, and we refuse to lie down; rest; be content unless we are free from all fear, worry, and anxiety. It is through Christ that our fears are cast away.

Therefore, it is a necessity for us all to gain a keen awareness of his presence, knowing that he is always with us. Christ has told us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). Or as another Psalm says, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (4:8). Despite our worldly struggles, our souls are in the hands of the Creator, and it is he who “chooses the greenest of pastures for your rest.”[1]

He leads me beside still waters.” – It is only by Christ that we can come to know peace and serenity through the trials of life. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, by brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is only through the trials that our faith is refined, and that we begin to reap the benefits of putting our trust in God. Although our earthly body may face temptation or pain, it is our soul that finds rest in the presence of God.

One way to soak in the presence of God is to obey the command that is given to us in Luke 22:26: “Rise and pray.” There is much power in rising each morning to meet with God and to soak in his presence. Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23, notes that “those who are often the most serene, most confident, and able to cope with life’s complexitites are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word. It is the quite early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day. . . The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quite time” of each morning.”[2] Rise and pray, meet with God, and you will discover the still waters that satisfy the thirsting of the soul.

He restores my soul.” – Although our soul rests in the care of the Creator, there are still times that we find ourselves feeling spiritually dry or downcast. David, the author of this Psalm, admitted to a time of spiritual dryness. In Psalm 42:11 he cries out, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” This term, “cast down” is a term that a shepherd, like David, would know. It alludes to the state that sheep find themselves in when their wool coats are weighed down, and they are unable to get back onto their feet. There is a parallel in this truth that reflects the life of the Christian.

When a sheep’s wool becomes long and begins to accumulate added weight from the “mud, manure, burrs, and others debris, it is much easier for a sheep to become cast, literally weighed down with its own wool.”[3] Wool is significant in Scripture because it symbolizes the old life of the Christian. Our flesh wants us to remain attached to our old life, our previous lifestyle, our prior ideas about the world, and all of our possession and worldly desires. And there are times that we feel cast down and spiritually dry when our focus is on those things. It is only once we regain our focus on God that he reveals to us, once again, the new life that he has given us and called us to walk in. He shears the wool that ties us to the world and weighs us down, and in exchange he gives us a new “coat.” He gives us a new life. It is the life that is free from our old self, free from our past fears and anxieties, free from the weight of this world, and free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, if we find ourselves feeling “cast down,” then perhaps it is a call to redirect our focus back to Christ.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – It is God who leads and we who follow. As Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It God living within us, the Holy Spirit, that grants us power to overcome ourselves and lead us into paths of righteousness. This is the counterintuitive nature of the Christian life: only once we begin to deny our own power do we begin to find the true power of God. As Christ says in Luke 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” “Deny himself” is the key that we use to unlock our true potential. It is only through God that we can come to walk in paths of righteousness, for the path is narrow. When we attempt to walk this path with our own strength, we discount the readily avaible power of the Holy Spirit and we begin to waver.

God calls us to obedience. For obedience towards God is really our only mission in life. And why does he call us to obedience? He does it “for his good pleasure.” He does it because, he being our Maker, is the only one who can lead us into the abundant life that we are called to. God’s mission is to save the lost and to grant us life and “have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Christ says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). He lays his life down for us, he offers us redemption and restoration, and he calls us to walk in abundant paths of righteousness that are paved with his love. He does it for “his name’s sake,” for when we abide, we give glory back to God. When we abide, our light shines before others, and God’s name is glorified. Our mission is to abide, and to allow our life to shout the worthiness of Christ; the Good Father; the Good Shepherd.

[1] Evans, Tony. The Power of God’s Names. (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 2014), pg. 119.

[2] Keller, Phillip W. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2007), pgs. 47-8.

[3] Keller, Phillip W. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2007), pg. 58.

Photo is an edit from the original Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

Does the Bible Really Say That…? (Marriage, Hell, & Homosexuality)

Anyone who has read Scripture knows there are several laws that exist within Christianity. In fact, there are over 600 commandments that are given throughout the entirety of Scripture. Whereas not all of these apply to Christians, who are under the new covenant law, there still remains plenty of laws we are to follow. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind (Mt. 22:37) We are not to commit murder, theft, idolatry, or bear false witness (Mk. 10:19). And we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:38). These are laws that we’re all generally aware of, and are rather easy to assent to. However, there are a variety of hard pills to swallow that Christianity also prescribes.

There can be moments when we read Scripture and are challenged with one of God’s mandates, and we find ourselves asking “Does the Bible really say that?”

This questioning is often the result of a cultural “truth” being confronted with one of God’s truths.

There are many things that our culture claims to be acceptable or normal, and there are many things that God has declared to be unacceptable and immoral. It’s no wonder we have so many questions about the Bible…

Therefore, I am going to address a few questions that I think are commonly questioned by individuals within the American culture. I will address the following:

  1. Does the Bible really say you can’t have sex before marriage?
  2. Does the Bible really say that homosexuality is a sin?
  3. Does the Bible really say that non-Christians go to hell?

Does the Bible really say you can’t have sex before marriage?

This question is a common one because it is the perfect example of a cultural “truth” coming face-to-face with God’s truth. I believe people often raise this question, not due to confusion, but because they don’t want it to be true. Nevertheless, it is an important topic that needs to be addressed.

To be straight forward, you will not find a “Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible that precisely refers to sex before marriage.”[1] However, in 1 Corinthians 7:2 were alluded to the condemnation of sex before marriage: “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

In this passage, Paul is prescribing marriage to be the solution to sexual immorality, and he is equating sexual immorality to ‘sex before marriage.’ Additionally, the evident “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband,” is also stated. 

Aside from this passage, the meaning and purpose of marriage can be found at the beginning of Scripture; the beginning of creation.

Genesis 2:24 says “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Again, Mark 10:8 says, “‘and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

It is of more than passing significance that God declares the unison of marriage to be the bonding of two people into “one flesh.”

God created sex to be experienced, exclusively, within the covenant of marriage.

This is a hard pill to swallow because our culture incessantly promotes promiscuity.

Hollywood Romcoms, the music industry, and reality television are all espousing sex to be a casual encounter that should be enjoyed by all. However, it has to be understood that our culture has moved from being a once Christian nation to a post-Christian nation.

Therefore, nothing that our culture proposes to be normal should ever be taken at face value. The things that our culture advocates should always be compared to God’s Word.

God has spoken richly on this topic and has deemed pre-marital sex to be sinful. In Hebrews 13:4, marriage is held to a high standard and is not to be defiled by casual encounters: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” God has declared judgment on pre-marital sex.

His judgment is not only received in the life after this, it is received during this life as well. It’s not curious that casual sex is evidently detrimental to the health of the human body. Chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, and HIV (the list goes on) are the result of the normalization of casual sex. Not to mention the contemporary issues of divorce and the egregious reality of abortion, that are almost always associated with premarital sex. Despite your beliefs, even “Mother Nature” is telling us that premarital sex is unnatural.

Does the Bible really say that homosexuality is a sin?

Many people are apprehensive to accept the condemnation of homosexuality because as the common argument goes: “How can homosexuality be a sin if it is rooted in love?”

This is a tough question to answer for that reason exactly. It’s a tough question because it stirs up doubt about the reality of God’s love. We say things like: “If God is so loving, then why would he condemn a relationship between two individuals who love each other?” or “Why would God disapprove of homosexuality if people are born gay?”

This topic is a controversial one indeed. I will do my best to answer it biblically. So, let’s go to Scripture.

To be upfront, God’s word has spoken about homosexuality on more than a few occasions, and always speaks towards homosexual behavior as being sinful. (Lev. 18:22; 20:13, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:8-10)

I realize that I’ve mentioned laws from the Old Testament that regard homosexuality to be sin, and that not all Old Testament laws are still applicable. Therefore, we can cast these aside for the sake of argument.

However, in regard to the other three times that Scripture mentions homosexuality in the New Testament, the context is never positive and regards homosexuality to be sinful.

Romans 1:26-27

A read through this passage will tell you that God has explicitly stated that homosexuality is “unnatural,” “shameful,” and deserving of “due penalty.” This passage in Scripture also reveals that the causation behind homosexual behavior is the result of people denying God’s existence. To deny God is to deny his precepts, his truth, and his very nature. And when people continue in their sin and disbelief, God “gives them over” to their desires. Click here to read more on this commentary.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

It is worth noting that this passage lists sexual immorality and homosexuality as being sinful. The distinction between the two is used in order to create clarity. Homosexuality is listed in this passage as being sinful, and that those who practice homosexuality “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

1 Timothy 1:8-10

This passage also differentiates between sexual immorality and homosexuality (this distinction should be noted due the possible argument that would propose homosexuality to not be regarded as sexually immoral). The context of this passage is making an argument for the purpose of the law. It’s stated that the law is made for the lawbreakers, so that they may know the laws in which they are breaking. This passage declares a list of different crimes, to include murder, lying, and homosexuality. Homosexuality is listed among the long list of crimes that are committed by “lawbreakers.” And to break a law of God’s is to commit sin.

This is a hard pill to swallow because our culture incessantly promotes sexual fluidity.

God has deemed from the beginning of creation that man and woman were made, exclusively, for each other.  The Bible says, “at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (Mk. 10:6-7).”

God has left us with no room for confusion on the topic of homosexuality.

Does the Bible really say that non-Christians go to hell?


Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This is one of the keystone verses in the Bible. It is by these words that the entirety of Scripture is held together in cohesion and purpose.

By definition, a Christian is a follower of Christ. A Christian is one who understands that it is never by their own merit or achievement that they will enter through the gates of heaven, thus they have chosen to believe in, trust, and follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the light.

Scripture tells us in Isaiah 64:6 that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” It is not by anything that we can accomplish that we will pass through the gates of heaven. We have all “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

We have all sinned and are unworthy of inheriting the Kingdom of God. However, it is by God’s love for us that he has changed our destiny.

God does not focus his attention on condemnation, he focuses it on forgiveness. John 3:16-17 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God is not a tyrant who sits in heaven and rejoices over the damnation of his lost children. He mourns over them. God went so far as to take upon the flesh and suffer the punishment of the cross just so that he could be with us. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Jesus desires for all of us to be saved. Thus, he has paved the way to an eternity with him. By his own blood he has secured our salvation.

He is “the way.” He is not just a way. He is the only way. Therefore, to deny Christ is to deny heaven. A non-Christian cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

This is a hard pill to swallow because our culture incessantly promotes absolute tolerance and cultural inclusivity.

This is not a xenophobic statement.

The truth is, there can be only one truth. To miss the truth is to be deceived, and to be deceived in this life is to spend the next life in hell. There can only be one religion that is true, and it’s Christianity.

A Christian should never condemn someone for believing in a religion other than Christianity, but that person will be mourned for if they die believing in anyone other than Christ Jesus.

We are all equal in one regard: we have all sinned, and we are all worthy of hell. It is by Christ and Christ alone that we will spend eternity in heaven. He is the only way, and the only truth, and the only light.


Why You Should Stop Trying to Please God

Do you ever feel like you have to try to please God? Or that you must act in a certain way or perform a certain task in order to ensure your salvation? That you must attend church regularly or read Scripture or serve your local community as if your ticket to heaven was dependent upon it?

I believe that we Christians can often fall into this type of incorrect thinking. We are all susceptible of falling into the trap of serving God out of fear instead of love.  

Now I’m not saying that regular church attendance, the reading of Scripture, and serving are not important aspects of the Christian life. What I am saying is that our motivation behind these disciplines must come from the right source. They should never be performed for the sake of performance, in the attempt to please God. So, what is the right source?

The source of our motivation to obey God should be his abundant grace.

I was reading out of the Old Testament recently and stumbled upon Micah 6:7-8. It’s a dialogue between the nation of Israel and one of God’s prophets, Micah.

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:7-8 (ESV)

I read this passage and realized that this dialogue is a demonstration of how we Christians often think.

In this passage, the Israelites were asking one thing: “What must I do to please God?” And God responds by saying “Live the life that I’ve called you to, and receive the grace that I freely offer.”

Too many times do I miss this. Too many times do I fail to simply receive the grace of God. Instead I sometimes become the victim of a critical spirit, and find myself feeling as though I must act a certain way in order to please God.

But just think about this for a moment: Why is it that when Jesus pursued the will of God with all of His heart, and did only what the Father told Him to do, and fulfilled the entirety of God’s law and was without sin, all that He received was the ultimate wrath of God and the punishment of crucifixion? Yet when we do not even seek God, and we turn to our own ways, and we are full of sin and fail to pursue God with our whole heart, that we receive the ultimate grace of God?

It’s because God doesn’t focus his attention on condemnation, he focuses it on forgiveness.

Which is why he has sent his only begotten son into the world to become our hope for everlasting life.

Micah 7:18-19 (HCSB) says “Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not hold on to his anger forever because he delights in faithful love. He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

God does remain wrathful because of our sin, but instead delights in his steadfast love for us. Despite what we have done, he chooses to show compassion on us again and again.

God’s grace is never rare. God has been offering his grace for all of eternity. It is by his grace that he “upholds the universe” (Heb. 1:3). It is by his grace that infinite provisions are made for the entirety of the earth’s inhabitants. It is by his grace that the “sun rises on the evil and on the good” (Mt. 5:45). And it is by his grace that he is so quick to forgive us for our trespasses. Everything about God’s nature is shouting how graceful and merciful he truly is.

Think back to the book of Exodus and you will notice that God saved the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians, not based on their merit, but because of his infinite grace.

Just as God saved the Israelites from the Egyptians, he has saved us from the penalty of sin. Just as God paved the way for the Israelites to pass through the Red Sea into the Promised Land, he has paved the way for us to pass through the gates of heaven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And just as God saved the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians by casting them dead into the sea (Ex. 14:30), he has saved us from the power of sin, and has casted our sins into the depth of the sea (Mi. 7:19).

As one worship song has said “He is mighty to save.” [1]

It’s not about pleasing God, it’s about responding to grace.

God has never once failed to demonstrate the grace that he has for us. One author has pointed out that “grace is God telling us in Jesus Christ that he was literally dying to love us.” So, how do we respond to God’s grace? We respond with faith, for “faith is our way of saying ‘I love you too.’” [2]

Faith is the manifestation of our trust in God.

Notice it is the grace that comes first. God’s grace always comes first. We do not demonstrate our faith in order to receive the grace of God, instead we simply respond to God’s grace with faith. Therefore, you should never feel as though you need to perform for God to be pleased with you.

In fact, God is already pleased with us.

God is already pleased with us because we are covered in the blood of the son “in whom he is well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). When God looks at us, all he sees is the purity and holiness of Jesus Christ (Is. 43:25; Heb. 10:17).

However, we are still to have faith. And as we know, “a faith without works is dead.” C.S. Lewis has pointed out that “there would be no point in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice.”

Faith is trusting in God. It is trusting in his commandments, his provision, and his promises. It looks like obedience, it is the practice of submission, and the discipline of “denying himself” (Lk. 9:23). It is allowing God to be the King of our hearts, and not only our hearts but our eyes, our hands, our lips, and our mind.  

To have faith is to trust, and to trust is to result in obedience. But it is not the type of obedience that is focused on pleasing, it is an obedience that is simply responsive to grace. It is obeying in a “less worried way.” It’s not the attempt to obey “in order to be saved,” it is the obedience that comes “because He has begun to save you already.” It’s “not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” [3]

We do not obey God in order to be saved, we obey because we are already saved.

Last of all, know that condemnation is a lie from the enemy. He wants to constantly remind us of our sins and to steal our focus from God. Because if we’re focused on our sin, and not God, then we’re less capable of making an impact on the Kingdom.

We must not identify as being a sinner, for that identity has been cast into the bottom of the sea. We now have a new identity. We are recipients of grace. We are a new creation. We are children of the King; sons and daughters of God.

Therefore, rejoice always! Rejoice in God’s grace, and rejoice that you have already been saved. Live in your salvation and walk humbly with your God. Always remember that God “was literally dying to love you.” Live your life in response to that love. Receive grace and live in faith.  

[1] Hillsong Worship. “Mighty to Save.”

[2] Barnes, M. Craig. Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011), 57.

[3] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (Great Britain, Harper Collins Publishers, 2012), pg. 147-148.

A Biblical Approach to Smartphones

CBS aired a 60 Minutes interview titled “Brain Hacking” a couple of years ago. The discussion was centered around the effect that smartphones are having on individuals, while also exploring why it is that smartphones appear to be so addicting. I was giving a second look into this study, realizing that this kind of discussion remains more relevant than ever. So, I decided to approach this issue biblically, and to explore it a bit further.

I’m going to address these two questions:

  1. What is “brain hacking”?
  2. How should a Christian use their smartphone?

What is “brain hacking”?

Brain hacking is a slang term that smartphone programmers have created in order to describe the art of programming smartphones in such a strategic way that it makes users want to constantly return to their phones. In other words, programmers are intentionally producing smartphones to become addicting.

Sounds rather crazy right? So, where is the proof?

Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, revealed several methods that programmers are using to keep customers hooked to their screens.

In the interview, Harris actually compares the phone to a slot machine since “checking your phone or tablet is the equivalent of yanking the slot machine arm, because your mind is eager to see what is going to come next.” [1]

He admits that Snapchat has invented what is called “streaks” to keep people returning to their phones. There is no real reward in maintaining a streak but your mind perceives it otherwise. Whenever you maintain a Snapchat “streak” or receive a like on Instagram or Facebook, your brain can’t help but perceive this as a reward, and as a result produces dopamine (often referred to as “the feel-good drug”). The dopamine release is what keeps you returning to check your phone.

The same minds that are programming our social media platforms are the same minds that devise algorithms for slot machines in Vegas.

Have you ever wondered why sites like Facebook and Instagram are free?

It’s because Facebook and Instagram are not the product. We are. All of these methods are being used to keep us on the phone longer, because “the longer we look at our screens, the more data companies collect about us, and the more ads we see.” [1]

All of these social media platforms are also using a “continuous scroll, because it’s a proven way to keep you searching longer.” [2] They use relentless notifications to buzz your phone so you will return to it, and then they introduce you to a continuously scrolling screen to keep you looking for more. Thus, exposing you to ads for longer in the hope that they will make money off you. The crazy thing is, it’s working.

You need to know that social media platforms are not inherently neutral. They are being programmed to program us to form addictive habits in our smartphone usage. This should be a wake-up call.

The full interview can be found here.

How should a Christian use their smartphone?

As Christians, we are called to have self-control and to abstain from idolatry. Smartphones pose the threat of us becoming addicted, as well as holding our smartphones as an idol. To fall into one category would mean to fall into both.

The reality is that “our advances in technology have a way of rendering God more and more irrelevant to our world and in our lives – the very definition of worldliness.” [3] Scripture says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God. . .Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). To seek self-assurance through digital “likes” is to put trust in the world, and to devote more time to social media than to God may suggest an addicting form of idolatry.

Fortunately, smartphones are now being developed with phone usage monitors. These apps allow users to track how much time they are actually spending on their phones, as well as which apps they are devoting the most time to (a gift from God if you ask me).

We should approach the issue of smartphone usage in the same manner that we would approach any other form of consumption. Whether it be the time we spend at the gym, playing sports, playing video games, watching television or movies, eating, drinking, or even at work. Nothing that we consume or devote our time to should ever take the place of God. To love anything more than God is idolatry.

The fruit of the spirit is self-control, and we have been given the spirit of self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). We should always exercise caution towards anything that we devote our time to.

If screen time is taking time away from reading Scripture or worship or prayer, then it might be time to reevaluate your screen time devotion. If using technology is moving you away from God instead of towards Him, then it may also be time to reevaluate how you spend your time on the internet.

To exercise self-control is to be diligent. Therefore, we should always use our smartphones, tablets, or laptops diligently.

So, next time you catch yourself reaching for your smartphone, make the decision to ask yourself “Why am I looking at my phone right now?” If you don’t know the answer, then don’t pick it up. If you do know the answer (maybe you’re hopping on to check your email), then be diligent in completing that one task.

My advice is that every time you go to access the internet, first tell yourself exactly what it is that you are planning on doing, and then be intentional with completing that one task. This simple practice will safeguard you from wasting time and/or wandering off to other websites or apps.

We only have one life to live. Do we really want to live it through a phone?

[1] Lusko, Levi. I Declare War: 4 Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself. (Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 126.


[3] Reinke, Tony. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. (Wheaton, IL.; Crossway, 2017), 192.

Satisfaction Without Sin

If there is one evident truth about the nature of humanity it is that we are all in search of something. As if the entirety of mankind is in search of something else or something more – something to make us feel like more.

The reality of this observation reveals to us that although we are all individuals, we are not quite independent. We prove to ourselves far too often that we are very much dependent upon something. We’re dependent because the very nature of our essence is incomplete, for there exists an almost insatiable void within every one of us. This truth is displayed in the lives of both skeptics and believers. Skeptics (that is, individuals who are skeptical of Christianity) may seek to find that “something more” in the pleasures of this world, or they may attempt to find it in the metaphysical: in an ideology or philosophy or some type of new age spirituality. Whereas we believers not only seek it, but we find it. We find it in Christ and in Christ alone.

However, it’s not really that simple to describe a Christian in such a way, for we all struggle with where we devote our attention. We Christians are still very much a part of this world, and we often fall short of the standard that God has called us to live by. What can I say? we are sinners! We prove this to ourselves time and time again, and that is why we need Christ. He is the only one who is capable of covering our multitude of sins. But despite us knowing this truth, we Christians are still inclined to sin against God. Why is this so?

We are all in constant need of satisfaction. The problem is that we don’t always go to the right source.

Satisfaction without Sin. You might be wondering what I mean by that. What I mean to say is that there exists a life that is abundantly full of satisfaction and everlasting fulfilment, and it is also void of sin. This is the life that Christ offers us. However, there also exists a life that is full of sin and the pursuit of chasing after the world, yet it is also void of genuine satisfaction – it only offers temporary happiness. This kind of life could be referred to as sin without satisfaction. This is the life that we offer ourselves.

As I’ve said, “there exists an almost insatiable void within every one of us.” I say this because well, I think that it is evidently true. We’re not like other animals. We cannot find true fulfillment by simply eating, sleeping, and mating. Well, maybe some can . . . but I highly doubt it.

As for the rest of us, we know that we’re uniquely different from any other animal in a thousand different ways. To mention a short list of unique traits that humans have: Intellect and conceptual thought, free will, ethical responsibility, moral accountability, and inalienable rights of personhood (and if one were to attempt to disagree with this standard of humanity’s unique state of being, they would in fact be engaging in “conceptual thought, exercising their free will, believing that there is an ethical responsibility to teach what is right/true, seeking to hold me morally accountable to teach the truth,” and demonstrating that they have the “right to disagree with my position”).[1] Truly, we are not animals with mere instincts. We are unique. Scripture refers to this unique quality as being ‘made in the image of God’ (Gen. 1:26).

So, we cannot simply find lasting fulfillment from quenching our body’s basic needs because there exists a “higher calling” within every one of us. If we know a “higher calling” exists, then why should be ever expect to satisfy that calling/desire with the things of this world? Our desire for satisfaction and fulfilment is not of this world! It is an immaterial and unworldly desire. It is the innate desire to be elevated.

Unfortunately, humanity too often attempts to obtain this elevation through their own authority, as if we’re all attempting to become the saviors of our own life. This is where we miss the mark. This is where we fall into sin (hamartia is the Greek word for sin, meaning ‘to miss the mark’). We fall into sin every time that we seek something other than God to satisfy our unsated state of being. We’re all guilty of this mistake and it’s because “this is simply the nature of being a creature rather than the Creator, who alone is whole and complete and lacking in nothing.” [2] Therefore, we who are incomplete, must seek He who is complete.

Do not love the world.

Scripture tells us that we must “not love the world or the things in the world . . . For all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Because the world is temporary, all that it can offer must also be temporary. We mustn’t put our trust in the things of this world. For all that is of this world must remain with the world. Your house, your car, your job, your bank account, your social media accounts, your sex life – all that you have acquired on earth will abandon you in the end. It will remain on earth to be eaten by rust and rot. Even our body is destined to turn to dust. All that we can take with us when we go is ourselves – our soul.

We are not bodies with a soul, but instead a soul with a body. All that we are worth, all that we truly are, is that which distinguishes our soul. And without Christ, our soul is distinguished as sinful and unholy. Our fallen condition has rendered us helpless in reversing this reality by our own work. It is only through the work of Christ that we can hope for our sinful condition to find restoration. It is only by the blood of Christ that our soul can be distinguished as worthy and holy before God.

It is only God the everlasting, the all-loving, the all-knowing, and the all-forgiving who can grant us exactly what it is that we are looking for. He satisfies our every need and He forgives our every sin. He knew us by name before time began, He hand-crafted us in our mother’s womb, He knows our every desire and shortcoming, and it is only by Him and through Him that we will find rest from our long, exhausting quest for meaning and fulfillment.

He loved us long before we knew Him, which is why He has sent His only begotten son into the world to save us from ourselves and to forgive us of our sins. Our only response to this kind of grace and mercy is to trust in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). We must allow Him to be the King of our lives, and follow Him. For He is the only one who can offer us a life of satisfaction without sin.

[1] Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 131-132.

[2] Barnes, M. Craig. Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011), 50.

The Nature of Temptation

When a Christian speaks of temptation, it is likely to be assured that they mean to be tempted to do some sort of evil. For how often do you hear from your fellow man that he had been struggling with the temptation to smile, or to do some sort of generous act, or that he was tempted to hold his tongue back from slander? Quite the contrary is true for us all. When we speak about temptation, we are very obviously alluding to the temptation that is brought upon us by our flesh; our old man, to do some sort of evil act, or to think in a wicked way.  

Temptation is real, temptation is powerful, and temptation is always in our midst. Therefore, it is our duty to explore the nature of temptation, that we may be able to understand it in such a way that sets us up for success, that we may continue steadfast in the race set before us.

What is temptation?

Temptation is brought upon us by Satan and the demonic forces that prowl around this fallen world we find ourselves on. Temptation is never from God (Jas. 1:13). Temptation can be understood in two senses. In one sense, temptation is “the forcing of a choice to be made: either to break a law of God and satisfy a desire or to forego satisfaction in order to keep God’s law.”[1] In the other sense, temptation can be understood as being the by-product of demonic propaganda. Propaganda is the “dissemination of information–facts, arguments, rumors, half-truths, or lies–to influence public opinion.”[2] Temptation is the sensation we receive when demonic propaganda is forced upon us.

And when the devil had ended every temptation,
he departed from him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:13

Is temptation a sin?

To be forthright, temptation is not a sin. I repeat, temptation is not a sin. Christ, the perfect Son of God, was tempted by Satan himself for 40 days in the wilderness, yet was without sin. Thus, temptation is not a sin, for Jesus was also tempted.

You know that He appeared to take away sins,
and in him there is no sin.

1 John 3:5

Why am I always being tempted?

In James 1 we are given insight into the nature of temptation. Scripture says a person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Now allow me to quickly pause and explain Desire in such a way that allows us to understand it as being different from Lust. For Jesus did not lust, for it is sin. Desire: “Each of us are born with a normal, natural set of desires. The physical desires are the consequences of the operation of our bodies. We also have spiritual desires, such as not wanting to be alone, wanting to be liked by others, or wanting something pretty.”[1] Whereas Lust is, as James wrote, desire when it has conceived. “The word is never used in a positive context; rather, it is always seen in a negative light, relating primarily either to a strong desire for sexual immorality or idolatrous worship.”[3]

Desire is natural and it makes temptation possible. Lust is unnatural and inherently selfish, and it seeks to satisfy a temptation.

For example: The desire to have sex is a natural, physical desire. By itself, the desire is not inherently bad. But it certainly can be taken too far, which would be lust, that is, desire conceived.
We find ourselves being tempted so often because we all have a natural set of desires; thus, temptation is made possible. As long as we are on this earth temptation will come at any and every opportunity. Scripture tells us “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).” As long as we are in the flesh the devil will remain in our midst, seeking to destroy. He tempts us by exposing us to things that will satisfy our desires in an unnatural way. Thus, it ought to be in our best interest to exercise caution when deciding who we surround ourselves with, where we will go tonight, and how we utilize the internet. Our flesh is going to naturally want to covet what we see. Therefore, we must take charge over the things that pop up on our news feed on various social media websites, and “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom. 13:14).”

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed
by his own desire.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,
and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:14

In what ways was Jesus tempted?

I think many of us want to know in what ways Jesus was tempted. We want our Creator to sympathize with us, for He is our source of strength when we are tempted. Specifically, for men I think we want to know if Jesus was tempted sexually. Note that Luke 4:13 does say “every temptation,” but this may only be referring to the temptations that were mentioned in verses 3-11 of Luke 4, and we would have to imply or guess that “every temptation” might be referring to a possibility that during these 40 days, Jesus faced every temptation known to man – which might be a bit of a stretch. So, for the sake of argument I would say Jesus did not specifically face sexual temptation during these 40 days in the wilderness.

However, think about this: Christ had women following him all the time. And I would even say He received more attention from women than any of us men ever have or ever will. In the eyes of a woman He must have been the perfect man! He was full of wisdom, He was selfless, He was affectionate, and He was a good listener, and I’m sure Jesus was good looking as well (1 Samuel 17:42 mentions that David was “handsome in appearance,” so I’m sure Jesus was as well. He is his descendant after all). Christ was not only probably attractive in a physical sense, but He was definitely attractive in the moralistic sense. So, His flesh may have been tempted to lust, but He resisted, and His popularity may have tempted Him to become prideful or egotistical, but He resisted. Jesus intentionally chose love over lust every time.

Jesus was too busy loving people to lust after them. For as Scripture says, “the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7),” and “his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see (Isaiah 11:3).” Jesus’ mission was to save the hearts of mankind. Thus, we are to focus our intentions on sharing the love of Christ with those around us as opposed to looking at others with the intent of benefiting ourselves. Intentionally choose love over lust.
Our Savior took upon the flesh and suffered as we do. He has given us His Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our struggle against temptation. So, remember and believe: Christ suffered as we do, He sympathizes with us, and He cares for us and makes provisions for us daily. He has demonstrated that we are more than capable of conquering over worldly desires. Look to God and know: “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).”

For because He himself has suffered when tempted,
He is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:18

How to resist temptation

When it comes to learning about how we are to resist and overcome temptation, I believe there are three major truths that we must believe and put into practice:

1: God sympathizes with you

2. Temptation has no power over you

3. You are a new creation

God sympathizes with you

Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Our God has come to this earth and taken on the flesh. His body had the same neurons and nerve endings as that of our own, and He has felt every kind of temptation, struggle, and pain that we have. Scripture even says “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your own blood (Heb. 12:4).” We have not done so, but Christ has. Christ resisted temptation throughout His whole life, and then through the excruciating punishment on the cross, and He did so on account of our sins. Our God is a God of mercy and a God of sympathy. Our God sympathizes with our every weakness.

Temptation has no power over you

Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability; but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:13-14).” Temptation does not have power over us, for there is no temptation that can overcome us. When temptation comes, do not entertain the idea. Run away from it, and run towards God, for He will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Trust in this promise, and trust in His strength.

You are a new creation

Temptation feels so powerful because it plays off of the desires of our flesh, and as it currently stands, we are very much “fleshly.” The flesh that we have received is of the fallen seed of Adam; thus, it is a sinful flesh that possesses sinful desires. Note: Jesus did not receive the seed of Adam, for His seed was directly from God and was never tainted by sin. This ought to give us some additional insight into why Jesus was able to overcome temptation with perfection – He did not receive sinful seed. He received the Spirit of God within untainted flesh. Whereas we Christians have received the Spirit of God within our already tainted flesh, that is, tainted by sin.

Romans 7 grants us revolutionary insight into the war that is waged between our new heart and our sinful flesh. Paul makes it very clear that he has “the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (v18),” and that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (v17).” Note: We Christians all have the desire to do what is right, yet nothing good dwells in us. How can this be so? Because the part of us where nothing good dwells is in the flesh, whereas the desire to do what is right is in our hearts.

May I propose a concept to you that you may have never heard: You have a good heart!

An immediate response might be: Well, how can that be so if I am so constantly being tempted by evil desires? I am clearly no good, I am indeed evil.

My fellow believer, were you not born again? Does Scripture not tell us we are a new creation? That the “old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17)? How can you say you are evil now that you have been born again? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you (1 Cor. 4:16)?” Would God send the Holy Spirit to dwell in a heart of evil? Of course not!

Ezekiel 36:26-27 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” God has given us a new heart with new desires. The only reason that we still feel the desire to do evil at times is because we are still at home in the flesh. It is not our hearts that desire evil, only our flesh. For our flesh is not part of the new creation, only the part of us that we cannot see has been made new.

Our hearts were once evil. But now we have a new heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells, granting us power over sin.

The flesh, clinging to its old desires, makes temptation feel very powerful at times. But trust in this: “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).” “We may sometimes still give in to our desire to sin, but Christians are no longer people controlled by our sin. We have agreed sin is worthless, and we have declared, in Christ, our intention to move, with Him, away from sin using God’s power.”[4]

Noteworthy mention from C.S. Lewis

If nothing I’ve yet written is of any use, take this advice from a more noteworthy Christian. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “Only those who resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to talk against it, not by laying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. . . We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.[5]





5. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (Great Britain, Harper Collins Publishers, 2012), pg. 142.

Why Does God Allow Evil?

When I look at the world around me, I find that I don’t have to look very far to see all sorts of evil and unnecessary suffering, and often it has driven me to ask “Why would God allow any of this?

The first thing that needs to be addressed when we attempt to answer a painful question like this is the assumption that is driving the question. When we see evil, are we wondering whether God created it, whether He allows it, or whether He even has the power to stop it? So, in order to answer this question accurately we must first ask ourselves what it is that we are assuming about the reality of evil and how it relates to God’s sovereignty.

Often the inquiry about the existence of evil is this: If God is so good and sovereign, then why is it that He would allow so much evil to exist in the first place?

This inquiry is often motivated by a familiar assumption, one that even St. Augustine was puzzled by. It goes something like this:

“God created all things.

Evil is a thing.

Therefore, God created evil.”[1]

The logic of this thought sequence makes perfect sense, however the assumption itself is false. It’s false because it posits that ‘evil is something.’ I would argue that evil cannot be something, because it’s too preoccupied with being nothing at all. You see, evil is not something that was created, but instead it is the deprivation of something else: good. I’m not denying that evil exists, I am claiming that evil cannot exist by itself. Good exists, and it is from God. Evil exists, and it is the lack of good.

The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil

To explain why it is that evil exists, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of creation, in the first chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 2 we are given a more in depth view of the sixth day of creation – the day God created mankind. On the day God created mankind He also gave the first commandment in Scripture: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die (Gen. 2:16-17).”

I know what you’re thinking: “Why would God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden if eating from it would result in death?” However, if we’re going to ask this question then it is equally fair to propose another question: “What would have happened if God had not created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?” I’ll first answer the latter.

If God would not have created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then He would not have been able to create mankind with the nature to have free will. Had God created the garden of Eden exactly as it was, without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then Adam and Eve would have had no other option than to strictly obey all that God would ask of them – they would have been slaves. Where is the love in that?

To love someone is to give them free will. God could not force Adam and Eve to love Him in the same way that we cannot force anyone to love us, or that anyone can force us to love them. It has to be a choice – it has to come from free will. This is what the tree symbolizes, and this is why God put it in the garden. He wanted them to have free will and to be able to willingly choose rather to love and obey Him or to turn and disobey. He did it out of love.

So, to answer the former question, God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden because He had to give mankind free will. Without free will God would have made Himself a tyrant, but God is not a tyrant. God loves us and He desires for us to love Him back, thus He has given us free will.

The Fall

When God granted Adam and Eve free will He also gave them the ability of contrary choice, that is, the ability to choose what is contrary to God’s will. His will was for them to obey, however Adam and Eve were free to disobey.

In Genesis 3 we are introduced to what is commonly referred to as “The Fall.” The Fall is the point in time in which evil entered into the world.

Before this point in time, the Garden of Eden was pure paradise. For when God was finished with creation He said that “it was very good (Gen 1:31).” The Garden of Eden didn’t have any harmful plants; there were no “thorns or thistles,” there were no natural disasters, there were no predatory animals, for they all lived in harmony with Adam and Eve. There was no evil to be found. Adam and Eve were so innocent and void of corruption that they could not even perceive their own nakedness.

However, at the moment that Adam and Eve chose what was contrary to God’s will, and eat from the one tree that He had commanded them not to eat from, sin was made known. Sin was made known and evil entered into the world. The ground became cursed, harmful plants were made manifest, the ability to experience pain was introduced, and now we live in a fallen world where death exists.

As I’ve said earlier, evil was not created, but instead it entered into the world after the completion of creation, due to mankind’s sin.

So, “Why does God allow evil?”

God allows evil because mankind has chose to bring it into this world. The fallen world we know is the result of Adam and Eve’s decision to choose what was contrary to God’s will. God created paradise, whereas mankind summoned chaos.

However, despite our wickedness God has paved the way back to Him. He has sent Christ Jesus into the world to rescue, redeem, and restore what was broken in the fall of Adam and Eve: our relationship with Him. No one is without sin except the perfect Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ. He has come down from heaven, taken on the flesh, and has sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins. It is only through Him that we can ever expect to find the paradise that we are all in search of. Jesus is “ the way and the truth and the life,” and no one can come to the Father except through Him.

[1]  Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 177.