Why Do People Lie?

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This is perhaps the best articulated reason on why people lie.

Why do we tell lies? We lie to evade reality; we lie because the truth is too painful or too shameful for us to face, or because the truth is simply inconvenient and has to be suppressed before it’s allowed to disturb us. We invent lies because, for whatever reason, we want to invent reality. And the false reality which we invent, the world we make up by our lying, has one great advantage for us: It makes no claims on us. It demands nothing. It doesn’t shape us in the way that truth shapes us; it faces us with no obligations; it has no hard, resistant surfaces which we can’t get through. A lie is a made-up reality, and so never unsettles, never criticizes, never resists, never overthrows us. It’s the world, not as it is, but as we wish it to be: a world organized around us and our desires, the perfect environment in which we can be left at peace to be ourselves and to follow our own good or evil purposes.

 

Lies are a desperately destructive force in human life. When they take the form of private fantasy, they rob us of our ability to deal truthfully with the outside world; but when lies go public, when an entire social group replaces reality with untruth, then the consequences are deadly. Sometimes, indeed, they can be literally deadly: Lies can kill. Lies work only when they remain unexposed. Once truth is allowed out, once reality is let in, then the lie just vanishes; the whole world of falsehood just crashes to the ground. And if the lie is to be maintained intact, then anything which speaks the truth has to be got rid of.

 

Totalitarian societies, dishonest businesses, abusive human relationships – they all depend on the exclusion of truth and truth-speakers, making sure that what really is the case isn’t allowed to come to light. Lies only work when they aren’t shown up for what they are; and that’s why lies always breed more lies, as we try to protect the world we’ve invented from being exposed (John Webster, Confronted by Grace [Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2015], 5-6).

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The Danger of Moral Preaching

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Introduction

As a preacher, not only am I concerned about how I preach, but also how preaching is done in many churches. Also, as a pastor, not only am I concerned about what our congregants are eating spiritually (or not), but also what other churches are eating spiritually (or not).

One of the things I lament is how little the Old Testament (OT) is preached in many evangelical churches today. For example, out of the 27 churches in the Gospel Coalition Bay Area Regional Chapter (GCBARC), which our church is also part of, there is only a few churches that are preaching regularly from the OT. And the GCBARC is supposed to be the largest conservative evangelical organization that churches are part of in the Bay Area! We are only a small sample within much of the broader evangelicals, yet only a few churches are preaching the OT. That explains why so many professing Christians today have so little understanding about the OT, how the New Testament (NT) is connected to the Old, and how the gospel does not start with Jesus in the NT but actually in the OT.

Because there is so much disconnection with the OT, many simply perceive the OT as a collection of random stories. Hence, people fail to see the metanarrative of the entire Bible. As a result, many do not make Christological connections. So, people simply overlook in seeing Jesus Christ in the OT.

Also, not only I lament for little preaching that churches are hearing from the OT, but also, when they do hear from the OT, so often the preaching that is done from the OT is nothing short of mere moral sermons. They lack doctrinal substance. They lack the gospel indicatives. They lack Christological connections. For instance, when people hear the story of David and Goliath, so often Goliath is referred to some “giant problems” in life that can be slayed with little stones of faith. But is that the main point of the story? Like the story of David and Goliath, there are many stories in the OT that have been misinterpreted and misapplied. Genesis 22 is another example.

In typical sermons from Genesis 22, examples of moral preaching are common. The message is, for instance, just as Abraham obeyed, so should we, as if that is the primary point of the narrative. Another point may be that we should all be willing to make a great sacrifice just as Abraham did, as if that is the focal point of the story. Another point may be that we should also all trust our father just as Isaac did. While all those (moral) points are not necessarily wrong or immoral, they are not the primary point of the passage. Hence, let me explain why moral preaching is dangerous.

The Danger of Moral Preaching

First of all, moral preaching often has basic hermeneutical error. That is because they (sermon or preaching) often start from the text and go straight to the applications (i.e., the moral applications). Moral preaching fails to deal with the grammar, history, and theology of the narrative and the text.

Secondly, moral preaching is dangerous because it provides little or nothing about the gospel. It fails to show what ways the narrative points out the gospel indicatives. You can point out the moral lessons from any stories in the Bible, but that does not mean you have preached the gospel or pointed out the gospel indicatives. In fact, a preacher may preach from a Gospel book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John), yet fails to preach the gospel.

Thirdly, moral preaching is dangerous because it is man-centered than God-centered. That is because moral preaching focuses on what man needs to do than what God has done. Generally, the moral sermons are imperatives with little or no indicatives of who God is and what he has done. Moral preaching truly promotes behavioral change without the gospel. Moral preaching is a great tool that promotes legalism.

Fourthly, moral preaching offers little or no connection to Christ. It fails to show what ways the narrative shows the glimpse or typology of Jesus Christ. In theology this refers to the progressive revelation of God. That is, in Scripture, especially, in the OT (doubly so in Genesis and other books in the Pentateuch), God reveals his redemptive truths (i.e., the plan of redemption through Christ) not all at once, but slowly in little glimpses until Christ finally comes to fulfill in the NT.

The moral preaching really does injustice to what Jesus commands what we should do with the OT. In fact, it was Jesus who commanded to search the Scriptures (i.e. the OT) because the OT testifies or bears witness about him (John 5:39). Did you hear that? Jesus commanded us to search the OT and see him there because the OT testifies about him!

Also, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, explained the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). That pretty much summarizes the entire OT (the writings of Moses and all the prophets). This clearly implies that Jesus made Christological connections of himself to the OT. I wish I could have been to such Bible study when Jesus was making such connections!

Moreover, in Luke 24:44 Jesus said, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Again, that pretty much summarizes the entire OT. And Jesus clearly states that the entire OT are written about him. So, that is our duty when we read and study the OT. We ought to make connections to Christ. We ought to see the gospel indicatives and theological significance. All these things, moral preaching fails to do.

 

The Books I Read in 2015

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By God’s grace, unlike previous four years, I did the most reading in 2015, totaling about 6,600 pages. However, I failed to include biography and other genres in my reading project.

Because I’ve been teaching through the Pentateuch to our congregation in the past year, I was forced to interact with various commentaries, which was a huge blessing. The resources have helped me to see the continuity of the redemptive drama in the Pentateuch, including unceasing sinfulness of man and unceasing faithfulness of God.

Besides one or two books (maybe three), the majority of the books have not been wasteful. The best reading under 50 pages have been Ash’s Listen Up! The best classics are Augustine, Bunyan, and Calvin.

The following are my list (in the order they were read) with brief comments.

Can I Trust the Bible? by R. C. Sproul

This 65-page book provides helpful exposition on The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The book is divided into six chapters: 1) the Bible and Authority, 2) the Bible and Revelation, 3) the Bible and Inspiration, 4) the Bible and Inerrancy, 5) the Bible and Truth, and 6) the Bible and You. I would highly recommend this resource for bibliology.

Faith as a Way of Life by Christian B. Scharen

One of the pressing needs of the moment is to convince and cultivate that Christian faith is not simply a set of propositions to believe, but also an orienting force that impacts every aspect of daily life as employers and employees at work, parents and child at home, politicians and others in various fields that God has called. This book provides some helpful discussions in the applications of faith.

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg R. Allison

The author takes the reader through the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then he summarizes and assesses Catholic doctrine from the evangelical perspective. There is simply no other book like this presently. It truly is a gift to the church. That is why Roman Catholic Theology & Practice is in the list of notable book for 2014.

The Arrogance of the Modern: Historical Theology Held in Contempt by David W. Hall

Many people appear to have forgotten the wisdom of the past generations. If not, they hold the past in contempt. In this series of essays, the author addresses various topics such as, church heresies and orthodoxy, welfare reform and politics – all in the context of biblical worldview. This primer for the use of church history to diagnose modern issues will be a huge benefit for students, teachers, ministers, and thinkers.

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent & Barbara Hughes

According to the authors, many in the church have misguided expectations for success. For example, if you will do this one thing well (e.g., music, website, easy parking, etc.), your church will grow. That one thing may even include something good and worthy. For instance, if you preach the word effectively, your church will grow. However, many today equate success in the ministry to mean growth in attendance or number. According to the authors, that’s dangerous. This book was definitely refreshing to hear. Every pastor and church leaders (new or seasoned) need many good reminder that this book presents.

Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice

Unlike any other books of the Bible, Genesis is utterly foundational. That explains the reason for the three volume commentary set. In this first volume, Dr Boice gives thorough expositions in all the critical sections within the first eleven chapters of Genesis. His expositions are intentionally doctrinal and devotional. Perhaps one of the most helpful tools to preach Genesis.

Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture) by John L. Thompson

If the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) offers various comments by many of the classical exegetes, this volume provides illuminations by various exegetes of the Reformation era (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others). Like the ACCS, this volume is truly invaluable.

The Book of Psalms, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Intro) by Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner

One of the major works on the book of Psalms that was recently published. The volume is the result of collaborated works of three distinguished psalmic scholars. Like most of NICOT series, it is written mostly for scholars and pastors.

Listen Up! A practical guide to listening to sermons by Christopher Ash

This 30-page booklet is a real gem to pastors, congregants, and churches. According to Mark Dever at Capital Hill Baptist, “We give Listen Up! to all our new members.” After reading this, you’ll understand why. However, I wouldn’t give this booklet to new members only, but to all members. It’s that important. It would help the pastors and their congregants. It’s a win-win. Perhaps the best $4 investment you’ll make.

We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr by Douglas J. Moo

This 14-page booklet was the presentation that Doug Moo gave at last year’s ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) meeting in San Diego. Although I had the privilege of listening to him when he gave the talk at the dinner for the 50th anniversary of the NIV Bible, the booklet is better. He offers not only the history of the NIV Bible, but convincing reasons for the project. Everyone should read his perspective on Bible translation, hermeneutics, exegesis, and exposition. It is quiet refreshing.

Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Lawsuits: A Legal Guide for Churches, Christian Schools, and Christian Ministries by Alliance Defending Freedom

This 40-page electronic book (pdf) is a helpful resource to churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries. With the recent interpretation by the SCOTUS, this resource offers practical ways to protect religious organizations from lawsuits.

Leviticus, TOTC by R. K. Harrison

This 254-page commentary is perhaps one of the most comprehensive commentaries on one of the most neglected biblical books. Like many of books in the TOTC series (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), this one will not (overly) burden the readers with many technical terms and academic language, and cause to be bogged down by many details. It is concise and readable. Although it doesn’t offer verse-by-verse commentary, if offers very helpful section-by-section commentary. The author doesn’t shy away from explaining controversial topics such as homosexuality (250-54).

The Book of Leviticus, NICOT by Gordon J. Wenham

This 362-page technical commentary is well balanced between exegesis and theology. Every chapter concludes with the relationship between the biblical chapter of Leviticus and the NT, whether it be to point out some aspects of the gospel truth, Christology, or theological continuity/discontinuity. Perhaps one of the better exegetical commentaries on Leviticus.

Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. edited by John S. Feinberg

This 410-page book contributed by thirteen noted evangelical scholars shows agreements and disagreements between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism in their theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises.

Is Jesus in the Old Testament? by Iain M. Duguid

This 45-page booklet offers basic help in understanding the Old Testament. The author also offers helpful list of suggested reading for anyone who want to learn further in how to see Christ and preach Christ in the Old Testament.

Saint Augustine’s Confessions (translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin)

Anyone who knows John Calvin knows that there is no one who influenced him the most than the writings of Augustine. When you read Augustine’s Confessions, you’ll know why. This 347-page book is perhaps one of the best devotional books I ever read. The book is very personal (reads like autobiography or personal journal) and at times he is explicitly transparent of his past life (after all, it’s called Confessions). However, unlike many today’s devotional books, Confessions is not without substance. You will experience one of the greatest philosophical and theological minds that God produced in the history of the church.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This 238-page book received many accolades (e.g., L.A. Times, New York Times Book Review, etc.). Amazon rates it “#1 Best Seller” in journalism. Recently, even many professing evangelicals jumped on the bandwagon in praising her. In fact, one of the prominent evangelical websites recommended the book if one desires to improve his/her writing. Since I wanted to improve my writing and also wanted to know what the fuss was all about, I purchased the book.

The book is very easy to read. In fact, you can read its entirety in one setting. However, just because a book is easy to read doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth the time and money. I was sorely disappointed with the book. I was hoping to get some instructions on writing. After all, the subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” The book contains more of her worldview on life than instructions on writing.

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

This 173-page book provides the author’s philosophy and methods of Christian discipleship. Although not everything is agreeable in both perspective and practices, the book does offer helpful and refreshing approaches to fighting sins with like-minded men or women in small groups setting.

Genesis for Everyone, Part One (Chapters 1-16) by John Goldingay

This is part one of the two part series of commentary in Genesis. It is not technical and exegetical commentary like the NICOT series. Rather, it reads like a devotional book. Although it is titled “Genesis for Everyone,” I would not recommend this book to just anyone or everyone. Without having some working knowledge of Genesis as a whole, one would be confused or misunderstand. This 197-page book is ideal for pastors who maybe looking for some sermon anecdotes or fillers that most technical commentaries lack.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

I have fallen love with the Pilgrim’s Progress (PP) all over again. Outside of the Bible, it is the most read literature. I am convinced that every Christian ought to read it (and re-read it). There is no other book that depicts what Christian life is like than PP. However, just because one would read the book doesn’t mean the reader would understand PP because it is filled with myriads of allegories. Hence, one should read the book with others in a group setting with their elder or pastor who knows how to properly interpret what Bunyan is trying to say. I would also recommend getting a better edition than the one that is listed here. The Desiring God edition has too many spelling errors and typos. Also, this one does not contain the second half of PP. Hence, I recommend you get a better edition like the one by Banner of Truth.

Revelation and Inspiration by Benjamin B. Warfield

This first volume of the ten volume set is considered by many as Warfield’s magnum opus. Many topics are covered in the book, such as, the biblical idea of revelation, the biblical idea of inspiration, and the real problem of inspiration. The two topics in the appendix are helpful too: the divine origin of the Bible and the canon of the New Testament. Most of the essays seem academic and written for theological journals. Although lay people may certainly benefit from the book, it is more for scholars and seminary students.

Numbers (New American Commentary) by R. Dennis Cole

Perhaps one of the better exegetical commentaries on the book of Numbers. It is similar to Gordon J. Wenham’s commentary on Numbers (TOTC) though a little more details.

Numbers (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Gordon J. Wenham

This was most helpful in preparation for teaching the book of Numbers during our midweek Bible study. It is concise without lacking substance. Offers good chapter analysis with redemptive-historical perspectives of various topics.

Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey

J. I. Packer is right. He said, “This is the fullest, most realistic, down-to-earth, and genuinely spiritual exploration of God’s call to pastoral ministry that I know.” I wished a book like this existed over twenty years ago when I first sensed God’s call to ministry. This is perhaps one of the better books on the subject.

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 2 by John Calvin (Edited by John T. McNeil)

Volume 2 begins with Calvin’s Book 3.20 on “The Way We Receive the Grace of Christ,” specifically, on the nature and value of prayer. And the volume ends with Book 4.20 on “Means of Grace: Holy Catholic Church,” specifically, on the church’s responsibility to obey human government (whether good or bad magistrates). However, Calvin notes, “Obedience to man must not become disobedience to God.” Like Volume 1 of Institutes, this 885-page may seem intimidating and daunting due to its sheer thickness, but it is easy reading like a devotional book. These two volumes are simply classic.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin

This 172-page book is a fairly easy book to read with one Patristic figure in one chapter. The author introduces men like Ignatius of Antioch, Diognetus, Origen, Cyprian and Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and Saint Patrick. The author also provides what he calls “Reading the Fathers: A Beginner’s Guide” at the end, which is very helpful. This is definitely a welcome addition to anyone’s library, especially, to help introduce the church fathers.

Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003)

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American theologian, journalist and founding editor of Christianity Today. A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois) and Northern Baptist Seminary, Henry served as professor of theology at Northern Baptist Seminary and later at Fuller Theological Seminary. Henry was a leading evangelical scholar of his day, and his book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1948) encouraged mainstream evangelicals to counter the isolationism of the fundamentalist movement through evangelism, philosophical reflection and active engagement with modern society. In contrast with various forms of liberal theology, Henry affirmed the central authority of Scripture in God, Revelation, and Authority, concluding that authentic knowledge of God must come from God’s own revelation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

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A German Lutheran pastor and theologian. After extensive theological training in Germany and America, Bonhoeffer worked as a chaplain and lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. Along with Karl Barth, whose theology had a lasting impact on Bonhoeffer, he signed the Barmen Declaration in 1934 in opposition to the Reich government. After short stints as a pastor in London and as a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, he returned to Germany and became involved in Reich resistance. As a result, Bonhoeffer was arrested and, tow years later, executed at the age of thirty-nine. Although a Lutheran, Bonhoeffer’s theological works share many features with Reformed theology, and his more practical works, such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, have wielded enormous influence within evangelicalism.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)

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Welsh preacher, writer and medical doctor. After medical studies and several years as a successful physician, Lloyd-Jones became the pastor of a small Welsh church and later was called to London to serve, along with G. Campbell Morgan, at Westminster Chapel. After Morgan’s retirement in 1943, Lloyd-Jones served as pastor until his retirement in 1968 and was known for his exegetical preaching and his leadership of Inter-Varsity Fellowship (now UCCF) in the United Kingdom. His call for evangelical churches to leave denominations containing theologically liberal congregations caused him to part ways with John Stott and other evangelical Anglican leaders at the Assembly of the National Association of Evangelicals in London in 1966.

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)

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A Dutch Reformed theologian, philosopher and Presbyterian churchman best known for his presuppositional approach to apologetics. Born in Grootegast, Holland, Van Til spent his life and teaching career in the United States. After spending a year at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he studied under Louis Berkhof, Van Til transferred to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he became friends with Geerhardus Vos and completed his studies. After teaching for a brief period at Princeton, Van Til, together with J. Gresham Machen and other scholars concerned with encroaching liberalism, contributed to the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught systematic theology and apologetics for over forty-five years.