Ask R.C.

Ask R.C.: Why Does God Love Us?

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It might be a sound argument as to why He ought not to love us that we find this question surprising. It is because of our sin, our pride, and our egos that we think ourselves worthy of His love, as if we are owed such. The truth is we are by nature rebels against His reign, would-be dei-cides, dead in our trespasses and sins.

Ask R.C. Jr.: What are the “third rails” in evangelical social media?

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What are the “third rails” in evangelical social media? We all have our sensitive issues, things that tend to instantly shut down our reason and jack up our emotions. It is usually those things, however, that call for careful reason most. What ought to happen and what does happen, sadly are often far apart. Over the years I have from time to time sought to boldly take up the prophet’s mantel and speak to these kinds of issues. On some occasions I’ve been thanked by those who have been helped.  On others I’ve learned my dispassionate careful approach wasn’t careful enough, and I was in the wrong. Most of the time, however, I’ve found myself standing on the third rail as intense wattage of reader angst coursed through me. Like a dim dog not quite mastering the concept of the invisible fence, I sometimes return to the jolt. But I’m…

Ask R.C. Jr.: Is it possible for a Christian to over-repent?

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Is it possible for a Christian to over-repent? Yes and no. There is a perspective out there, driven I suspect more by psychology than theology, that looks down its nose at what is sometimes called “worm theology.” It suggests that we can be too down on ourselves, that looking too deeply into our sinful hearts is unhealthy and unbiblical. The Bible, however, gives a compelling portrait of our sinful nature before we are reborn (see Ephesians 2), and I would argue, after we are reborn (see Romans 7). To look more deeply into our sin is to look more deeply into His grace, and to respond more potently in love and gratitude. One thing most needful for me, and for the church in our age is a more honest, humble grasp of our own sin.

What’s your favorite part of the advent season?

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I confess that I am a profoundly nostalgic man. My daydreams typically focus less on an imagined future and more on a remembered past. I grew up in the mountains of western Pennsylvania. White Christmases, sled riding, hot chocolate, wood fires weren’t affectations but normalcy for me. I was blessed to be raised in a loving family. Our feasts were genuine celebrations, not relational train wrecks. Just as I grew out of childhood my sister’s children were added to the mix, retaining the zeal and wonder of Christmas morning. These are all blessings, blessings I hope my children will get a hint of as we travel back to Ligonier this Christmas, for our family celebration. Truth be told, however, even going back to my childhood, the power and the glory isn’t in Rudolph and the Grinch, not in game systems or Elmo dolls. For me it’s always been the hymnody….

Is my sense of “peace” a good arbiter on right and wrong?

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Acting Against Your Conscience Yes and no. It is all too common, even outside charismatic circles, for people to use their own internal sense of peace, or a lack thereof, as their own personal moral guide when faced with moral choices. The sole reason this might be appropriate, however, has nothing whatever to do with whatever moral dilemma we might be facing and everything to do with a clear biblical principle — whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). The principle here is simple enough — if we do something we believe to be wrong, even if it is not in itself wrong, we have done wrong. My lack of peace is a clear sign I think something a sin. If I go ahead and do it, I have sinned, even if my lack of peace was misguided. Suppose, for instance, that it is not a sin to…

What should we be on our guard for as our children grow older?

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Teenage Sin Sin is the true and obvious answer. That said, there are peculiar sins that teenagers, at least in our day, are somewhat prone to. Just as with adults, however, I’m afraid we mass our defenses in all the wrong places. The sins of our youth are just like the sins of our dotage, though they may present themselves in somewhat different ways. The key sin I am on the lookout for with my teenagers is the one I’m on the lookout for in me — pride. Pride How is pride manifest in our youth? It begins, I would suggest, in a lack of loyalty. That is our children are tempted as they grow older to look upon their family, the authority of their parents, as something they have grown past. They are tempted in turn to see their own peer group as the peak of wisdom, character and…

How can we tell the difference between the accusations of the devil, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

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Jesus’ Betrayal Jesus, we ought to remember, was betrayed twice by His disciples. While the betrayal of Judas carried Jesus inexorably toward His passion, the betrayal of Peter was of the same dark hue. Both pushed Jesus away as the other, both left Him to the accusations of others. And, it should not be forgotten, both responded to their betrayal of our Lord with sorrow. Two duplicitous, disloyal cowards. Two grievous sins. Two hearts weighed down with despair. But there the paths diverge. Godly Sorrow Judas, in his anguish, took his own life. Peter, in his anguish, turned to the One he had betrayed, to the One who gives life. Judas’ sorrow led him further from his only hope. Peter’s sorrow led him toward his only hope. Which, in the end, is how we tell the difference between the accusations of the devil and the conviction of the Holy Spirit….

Do Calvinists have too low a view of themselves?

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Made in the Image of God Perhaps. It is virtually impossible to have to low a view of ourselves by ourselves. We, all of us who are human, do indeed bear the image of God. Even that, however, is ultimately extrinsic to us. The imago, we need to understand isn’t essential to us in a sense, but is added to us. By ourselves, apart from His grace, we are but dust and rebellion. In His grace, however, He has imposed upon us, stamped upon us, His image. We humans thus have worth, dignity and value, though these are ultimately from without rather than within. Total Depravity In affirming the total depravity of all men we still affirm that we could always be worse. Total depravity speaks to two lines of our wickedness. First, it affirms the breadth of our sin. There is no part of us untouched by sin. The…

Ask R.C. Jr: Could Jesus have sinned?

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The Liberty & Ability to Sin Yes, and no. How we answer depends totally on how we are using the word “could.” Augustine explored the issue well, and both Luther and Edwards followed after him in distinguishing two different kinds of abilities. We could say that Jesus had the liberty to sin, but did not have the ability, or alternately, that He had the ability but not the liberty. External Restraint The freedom, or the “yes” of the answer comes down to this — there was no outside force restraining Jesus from sinning. It’s not as though if He had tried to speak a stone into bread during His temptation that His lips would not cooperate. There are situations where outside forces do take away our choices. When I was arrested outside an abortion mill in 1989 the police restrained me with cuffs, ran an ax handle under my armpits,…

Is Ebola a Judgment Sent from God?

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Ebola—Hardship or Judgment It is natural, when confronted with hardship, whether it be personal, national, even global, to wonder where the hand of God is in the hardship. When that hardship hits us or those whom we love, we often fall into fear that somehow this means God is angry or unhappy with us. When it hits those whom we hate, we often fall into an ungodly joy that somehow this means God is angry or unhappy with our enemies. Sovereignty Over Ebola This much we know — God is sovereign over all things. If it happens, He ordained it to happen. God tells us just this in Isaiah 45: I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there…