Hugh Hefner, The Gospel of Hedonism vs. the Gospel of the Resurrection

Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91. Some view his legacy as a hero of sorts for being a pioneer in the sexual revolution and freed people from repression. Others take a more critical view, say that he was a populizer of the objectification of women.

I’ll say this, if God doesn’t exist and there is no life after death, then being free from repression or objectifiying women is neither morally right or wrong. Morality is about the way things should be, but if God doesn’t exist there is no way that things should be, objectively speaking. Things just are. Neither opinion is more valid than the other. My question is this: If God doesn’t exist, and the only life we have is this one, isn’t the Playboy lifestyle the one more consistent?

In my brief time as an atheist, I figured that in a meaningless and valueless existence, why not live like a hedonist? That doesn’t mean I was going to just be as self-indulgent as possible. It just mean that I was going to live for pleasure, even if pleasing myself didn’t necessarily mean me treating women like objects. The point is, if you only live once why not do what feels good since it’s all going to be gone and forgotten in a few years?

The Apostle Paul even said that “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” He’s speaking in the context of him being persecuted from town to town for his beliefs. In other words, if there’s only this life then the playboy lifestyle, so to speak, would be a logical conclusion. But the dead are raised, according to Paul, because Jesus was raised. In the first few verses of the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul quotes an early Christian creed that talks about the resurrection appearances of Jesus.

“For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.”

He appeared to individuals, groups and eventually Paul himself. That’s why he went from a persecutor of the church to arguably the most influential Christian of all time.

So what’s my point?

If God doesn’t exist and there is no life after death, then Hedonism is at the very least a logical way to live. But if God is real and Christ is raised, then there is a way things should be, and we should not live just to gratify ourselves, but for the God who created us and live with the next life in mind. These early believers forsook earthy pleasures and lived in dangers, labors and sufferings for what they claimed to have witnessed. They did not just believe based on their feelings, but what they saw with their own eyes.

For me, the self-gratifying life was never gratifying. The only satisfaction I’ve truly found is in pursuing Christ. I’d invite you to look into the evidence for the resurrection for yourself with sincerity while you have opportunity.

 

A Different Look at the Take a Knee Controversy

I hate to give the devil credit, but it seems like he did an excellent job in dividing Americans over what counts as patriotism this past weekend with the whole “take a knee” or “I stand” thing. The argument seemed to generate a lot more heat than actual light, and it was somewhat discouraging for me to see even Christians divide over this issue. In the midst of all the Twitter firestorm, I asked myself how we as believers are supposed to be thinking about this.

Now, I know political topics like these can tend to bring out a lot of passion in all of us. Know that if what I say offends you, please have the humility to ask yourself if what I’m saying is biblical. If you aren’t a Christian, realize that this is not necessarily addressed at you but to my brothers and sisters in the faith. Satan would like nothing more than to divide believers over things that, in the grand scheme of things, are not really worth dividing over.

Getting straight to the point. I personally have stood for the National Anthem, took of my cap and put my hand on my heart. That is just what I was always taught to do. The ideals and principles that created this nation are ones that I believe in. And I respect the men and women who have served this country and fought bravely so I can enjoy the freedom that I have. In fact, both my grandfathers fought in the Korean War and one received a Purple Heart. That being said, I am a citizen of the kingdom of God first and foremost. The Bible refers to me as a believer in Jesus Christ a foreigner and an exile. My citizenship is in heaven. I am an merely an ambassador here, I am not a permanent citizen. (1 Pet. 2:9-11, Phil 3:20, 2 Cor. 5:20)

For professional athletes to choose to kneel for the National Anthem cannot possibly be an offense to me, because they are not disrespecting my ultimate home and motherland. From God’s perspective, America is a relatively new nation. And there is coming a time when America will be no more. All the kingdoms of this world will be the kingdom of Christ. Jesus will put an end to all of these nations, and only his nation will be. (Dan. 2:44, Rev. 11:15)

My identity does not come from me being an American, my identity is in Christ. So-called disrespecting a flag or an Anthem does not disrespect my real identity. And that gets me to my next point. What these professional athletes are protesting is injustice, or at least that is what they say, and I don’t have any reason to judge their motives. (Mt. 7:1-2) In fact, I am commanded to not judge their motives. There have been many instances of police officers killing black men that were completely unjustified, I would hope that we all can admit that. We have cases like Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Tyre King as examples that there has been some reckless and awful behavior perpetrated by a handful of cops.

This needs to be addressed. But all the kneeling in the world, or all the philanthropy, or all the legislation in the world is not going to change the human heart. The Bible says that, apart from Christ, our natural condition is to lie, steal, kill and destroy. When these officers have killed these young black men, some say that they are due to racial bias. That may or may not be, depending on the case. I am not at all denying racial bias. It exists. The nonsense we saw in Charlottesville tells us clearly we have a long way to go.  What I am denying is that “blackness”, or “whiteness” is what defines our identity. People who see themselves or others more or less valuable due to their race are not seeing things from God’s perspective. Jesus defines our identity. He determines our value, and he demonstrated his value for us by his death on the cross. He destroys all distinctions between all classes, nationalities, cultures or any other social structure. (Eph. 2:13-20)

When the church was founded, there was a division between Jews and Gentiles. Even years after the body of Christ had started, it was still exclusively Jewish until Peter had a vision and went and preached to the Gentiles, Roman soldiers at that. Peter went and preached to an occupying army with a completely different culture than his own. When these men he preached to received the Holy Spirit, he said Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism,but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10)

Paul said in his letter to the church at Collosse “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3:11) In other words, Christ destroys the distinctions between class, between ethnicity, between culture, between nationalism. If Paul were here in modern times, perhaps he would say “In Christ there is neither Jew nor non-Jew, American or Iranian, black or white, educated or under-educated, rich or poor; all are one in Christ”

It’s interesting that Paul names the Scythians. Search their history, as a culture they had some pretty depraved traditions and a history of violence. Yet if they were in Christ, they were a new creation, and just as loved and accepted as anyone else. They were no longer Scythian or Barbarian, but Christian.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”

We are not to know people after their nationality, their skin color, their culture, their race, social class or anything else. We who are ministers of reconciliation have the answer to the race problem. And it’s this: The race problem is really a sin problem. Without Christ defining your value, you will try and find it in other things– whether it be your race, your nationality, your deeds, your mistakes, your social status, your physical appearance, your intelligence and so-on.  But the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We all have sinned and fallen short, and only Jesus can make us new and give us a different identity. Only God through Christ can make all things new. Our message is to be reconciled to Him!

Thoughts on Nabeel Qureshi, Healing and God’s Will

This past Sunday, I was saddened to hear about the death of Nabeel Qureshi. For those of you who are hearing about this brother for the first time, Nabeel’s testimony on how he turned from Islam to Christianity is extremely powerful and well worth learning more about. You can hear the short version of his testimony here:

His whole story is laid out in his NYT Bestselling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It’s a great read. I highly recommend it.

One of the most powerful things about his story is that he had friends who not only patiently loved him in spite of his arguments that Nabeel made against their own faith, but were able to answer his arguments based on reason and history, and raise arguments against Islam as well. In other words, Nabeel ran into some Christians who were able to do what 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says. What is amazing is that not only did Brother Nabeel become convinced of the truth of Jesus by what he could see from the evidence, but also supernaturally from the various ways the Lord talked to him through dreams. And he was willing to follow Jesus, regardless of what it may have cost him in terms of his relationship with his own family.

I think what inspires me about his life is not just his story on how he came to know Jesus, but what Jesus did with his life in just a short amount of time. Space won’t allow me to get into all the details, but how he devoted his time to education, study and ministry of the gospel puts me to shame. As someone who is just four years older than Nabeel, it’s both encouraging and convicting to see someone give himself so fully to his gifting and calling. It makes me want to get busy with my life. The man clearly loved God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He did in a few short years what most Christians fail to do in a life time. He could speak on levels of both the mind and heart in a balanced way that I’ve seen few be able to do. I’ve seen a lot of Christian apologists become dry and heady, and that certainly wasn’t the case with Brother Nabeel.

I think what now stands out to me the most is that Brother Nabeel didn’t allow cancer to crush his hopes. From what I’ve seen, he didn’t get miffed at God or get bitter, but his faith continued to burn bright. For me, to go through such a trial and still be clinging to Jesus the way he did is encouraging. I know I would have been tempted to get bitter and upset. And while we’re going miss him, I’m glad he’s home with Jesus and enjoying his reward until the day of resurrection.

What I Refuse to Believe

Since he received a diagnosis of stomach cancer around a year ago, one of the things that Nabeel believed was that God had the power to miraculously heal him. I believe that as well. Yet he also stated repeatedly (search him out on Facebook or his vlogs) that he wasn’t so sure what God’s will was.

Since this tragedy has happened, there have been some heartfelt thoughts shared as to why God could have allowed this to happen. And while I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind them, I can’t go along with any of them.

God didn’t just have the power to heal him. He did want to heal him. I know this is an unpopular view with much of the Body of Christ today, but it’s unpopularity doesn’t make it untrue. We all know the story of the leper that came to Jesus in Mark 1. He said “if you’re willing, you can make me clean”. Jesus said “I am willing, be cleansed”. Jesus always did the things He saw His Father do. And every person who came to Him for healing in faith, he healed. Whether it fits within our theology or not, Jesus healed people in response to their belief in what He was both able and willing to do. Here are just a few examples:

Key Phrase

Leper in Galilee

“If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus said “I am willing, be clean!”

Mk. 1:40-45

Paralytic at Capernaum

Jesus saw their faith

Mk. 2:3-12

Hemorrhaging woman at Capernaum

Daughter, your faith has healed you

Mk. 5:25-34

Two blind men at Capernaum

According to your faith let it be done to you

Mt. 9:27-29

Ten lepers between Samaria and Galilee

your faith has made you well

Lk. 17:11-19

Blind Bartimaeus

your faith has healed you

Mk. 10:46-48

Roman centurion’s paralyzed servant

Let it be done just as you believed it would

Mt. 8:5-13

Canaanite Woman’s demonized daughter

Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.

Mk. 15:21-28

Man’s epileptic son near Caesarea-Philippi

Father: if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us…Jesus: “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Mk. 9:17-29

Jairus’s daughter

Don’t be afraid; just believe

Mk. 5:36

Lame man at Lystra

Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

Acts 14:7-9

Jesus’ healing ministry is continued in the church, as we see in James 5:14-16:

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;  and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Now I can sense that people are going to read this and get angry and upset with me. The last thing I would want to do is disparage another man’s faith, especially during a time of grief. And I don’t know the full scope of the story, but can only go based on Nabeel’s own words. Please hear me. I am not saying any of this to find fault. There are two kinds of unbelief. There’s the unbelief due to a lack of knowledge, and there’s an unbelief out of a stubborn refusal to accept what God says. It seems clear to me that Nabeel, like so many Christians, was just unaware of God’s willingness in his own life. I can’t fault him for him walking in all the light that he had. He walked in all the faith that he had, and I believe that pleases God.

I have to believe in healing personally for a few reasons. For 1.) it’s the clear teaching of scripture. If you want to read up on it, here ya go. If you want the short version, I’ve written about this topic several times here. 2.) I can’t believe that God is taking fathers from their families and their ministries in such terrible ways and still call him Love, the Good Shepherd, or Jehovah Rapha or Our Father.  3.) I have to believe for health in my own life. My mother died prematurely. I have had my own health issues, even if they are minor in comparison to cancer. I can’t entertain that God might not want to heal me or that he may will that I’ll die at a young age. That’s dangerous and for me it would be a stubborn refusal to believe, it would not be ignorance. My own son had a valve close in his heart that the doctor’s said they would possibly have to operate on when he was a baby in response to prayer and by God’s grace. There are people in my own church who have been miraculously healed by standing in faith. It would take a stubbornness of being convinced at this point that God is not both able and willing.

And that is why I ask, no…I beg those who are reading: Study the scriptures for yourself with an open heart. Jesus told the Pharisees they make void the Word of God through their traditions. There are thousands of Christians who just seem to stubbornly refuse to consider that these things are even possibly true and are cutting off their own help. They reject the practice of scripture because some have abused it. They raise all kind of silly straw man arguments against healing when they should know better. Worse, they attack other Christians who do believe that it’s God’s will to heal in the name of “sound doctrine” and don’t realize just how unsound their own theology and view of God is. Jesus was the will of God in action. He never refused anyone healing. And Jesus never was a fan of those who are difficult to convince. Let us not discredit God’s character by saying he must have been unwilling because it did not happen when it is clear that faith has a part in what we receive. Do not shut the door for others by criticizing things you have not searched out yourself, or have only looked at in a one-sided way to confirm your own bias.

Readers, I hope you hear my heart here. I want people to live and not die, and declare the works of the Lord, as the Psalmist said. I want the person who is sick to have hope and to live out their life.  And though I never personally met Nabeel, I wish I had said something. I wish I shared a book with him, or some of the truths I’m sharing with you now but I didn’t because I didn’t know if it would have made a difference because the traditional teaching is so pervasive, and that he didn’t know me from Adam. That was wrong of me to assume. Looking back now, it may have been worth the effort.