HANK HANEGRAAFF: You know, Jack, one of the things that you talked about when I saw you in Florida a couple of weeks ago was your passion for angels. They are the first in the highest place in the ladder of created beings. They have a transcendently important influence on our lives. They are invisible, but they are significant in our lives. So, you wrote a book about this. Why are you so passionate about the subject of angels?
JACK GRAHAM: Well, I never, first of all, talked about or ever planned to build or grow or lead a big church, and I never thought I would write a book about angels! I believed in angels. I acknowledged angels. I probably preached a sermon or two on the work of angels, especially at Christmastime — the angel’s announcement. But, I first wrote a book called, Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity (Bethany, 2014). It was about the unseen world. The invisible world all around us. I dealt with spiritual warfare, which you have a great book on that as well.2
But in Unseen, I included a chapter on angels. I said that angels are three things. First, they are warriors. They are strong and powerful beings. You often see them engaged in battles—these are spiritual battles, of course, primarily, where angels have been involved.
I also said that angels are worshipers. That is their primary role. It is all about Jesus. It is never about the angels. They defer to Jesus. I am preaching through Hebrews right now — Jesus is superior to the angels, but God created these beings to honor and glorify Him (Hebrews 1–2); 24/7 around the throne of God, the angels are glorifying Him. They are worshipers.
And then, not only that, I said they are witnesses. The word angel (Greek angelos) means messenger. They come bringing big announcements, such as with the Christmas season and you know they come with big announcements. In the Book of Revelation you see the announcements that angels are making, and often these were announcements of judgment.
I said those three things, and there was so much interest in the chapter that the publisher came to me and said, “Would you do a whole book on it?” I said, “Absolutely not!” I did not necessarily want to be the guy writing the angel book because there is a lot of quackery. I mean you go start buying books on angels, or looking them up, there is a lot of weird stuff — bizarre things being said about angels. But I actually had a conversation with a dying woman. A dear friend of mine. In fact, it happened at Bay Hill, where we were down there several ears ago. She said to me, “Jack, please write this book.” She said, “You know, I am about to be with the angels. I am going to see them. I am going to be with Jesus, and I’d like to know about who they are, what they do, and you need to consider doing it.” That moved me. So, I got a legal pad out and started studying the angels.
I discovered there are around 300 references to angels in the Bible. I mean there are stories about angels that we just pass right over when we read them. We do not even recognize they are there. Now, the angels are ok with that because, again, they do not want to be The Story, but they are all throughout The Story, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Interesting enough, they are in the story of Jesus often. We see Jesus interacting with angels. For example, a lot of people would not realize that an angel came to minister to Jesus after the great temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). In the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed before the cross, an angel ministered to Him (Luke 22:43). Then we read that the angels are not only there for the Son of God but they are there for the children of God, those who are believers (Hebrews 1:14). There are great passages of Scripture that tell us they are always present and always around us (Hebrews 12:22–24, 13:2).
I began to think, “Look, this is real!” Angels are real. It is such an encouragement to know, because what angels tell us is that God truly is in control of the universe. He bids these angels to do His work, to witness His power and His glory, and to minister to the saints, as the Scripture says, “those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). These are wonderful and powerful beings. They are not typically soft. You know, sometimes people like angels because they view them as a kinder and gentler version of God. You know what I am saying? They think, “Well, you know, I can’t get to God, but you know I got a cuddly little angel here.” Well, angels are not all that cuddly. They are more like ninja warriors, when you read about them in Scripture. They are doing great things and moving powerful currents of history as they go. God in His providence chooses to surround us — you, me, and believers — with these angelic beings who care for us and who minister to us in ways that we may not even know.
There are times in our lives, maybe if you think about it, you look back and see how God intervened in some way, something happened—that almost accident, that near disaster that was averted—and you wonder, “Was that…did that… could that have been an angel that helped me?” I believe it happens more than we know. When we get to heaven, we will see it full force.
HANK: Yeah, as you were talking, I was thinking about the reality of what you were just saying. When you buy a new car, a particular brand of a car, suddenly you see that car everywhere. If you have an eye for angels in the Scriptures, you see them everywhere. You see the cherubim guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden in Paradise (Genesis 3:24). You see the angels heralding the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:8–14).
JACK: The Ten Commandments (Acts 7:53; cf. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:1–4).
HANK: Yeah, and then you see in the very last book of the Bible, the very last chapter, you have an angel who shows John the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1–5).
You also alluded to something that caught my attention just now — that is there is a sense in which we can speak of having a guardian angel. If they are not dispelled by the impiety of our lives, we have guardian angels. We have in the Scriptures the text that probably is familiar to lots of people: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:14). It seems to me that you can even talk about having a guardian angel?
JACK: Yeah, in fact, when I was studying that, Hank, I should have called you. I know you have studied the subject because that is an interesting verse. It is just part of a verse. It is kind of the only verse that would allude to the idea that you would have an individual angel who would be your angel. It is difficult to build an entire theology on that one little verse, but it does seem to indicate that there are such angels. What I have ended up saying about whether we have one angel— Do I have an angel named “Fred” whose looking after me? I do not know. But I do know I have a guardian of angels. Some of us must need more than one, right? The truth is that angels do watch over us. So, I will be happy to meet my personal angel attaché in heaven, but it is a reality that you can count on the fact that angels are all around us.
Of course, there are many things that we as believers have experienced that angels have never experienced. First and foremost is salvation and grace. You know there is an old Gospel song that says angels “fold their wings” when those of us who have been redeemed sing of redemption, salvation, and the blood of Christ. Angels desire to look on these things (1 Peter 1:10–12).
Sunday I was preaching about Jesus being our great High Priest. I did a series on the Prophet, Priest, and King out of Hebrews. I talked about Jesus now ascended, and He is our heavenly priest. Can you imagine the reception the Lord Jesus received when He was welcomed home to the throne of God? The angels roared. The saints of God celebrated. It just captivates me, and it is a transcendent subject to see the massive movement of angels in history and in eternity, but also what a blessing to know that God cares enough that not only does He give us His Spirit who lives within us, His Word, His Church, Christian friends, but alongside us, God has so assigned angels to assist Him in helping us.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner — The Jesus Prayer
Dr. Nicole Roccas has been researching and writing about time from both a historical and theological perspective for nearly ten years. In addition to being a writer and editor, she lectures at the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College (Toronto).
Hank Hanegraaff: I want you to talk a little bit about The Jesus Prayer. It has become part of my DNA. It is rooted in biblical prayers, such as the feeble prayer of the tax collector:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NIV84)
In The Jesus Prayer, we are praying for God to be merciful to us as sinners. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, for Thou alone are worthy, now and forever, to the ages of ages.” We pray that typically by saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This is a stepping stone in your view toward humility?
Nicole Roccas: Yeah. When you think of the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, it is really out of humility that the publican was able to pray that prayer. You see the Pharisee who is “praying,” but really he is sort of just pointing out to God all the good things about himself — all the worthy things about himself.
Then you look at the publican, and all he can really say is, “Lord have mercy,” because he knows he is a sinner. He is in touch with the truth. It was he who was truly praying. It was he who was truly communing with God in that moment.
I think that this is a model for us as well. It is really in our brokenness and in our feebleness that we can turn to Christ. When we turn to Christ in those moments, that is really where true fellowship comes from. The Jesus Prayer is also really important to remember in times of despondency.
When you are despondent, I have said before, it is described as a slackness of the soul, a lack of effort, a spiritual or acedical1 life, you do not have a lot of endurance to spend hours in prayer, or to spend hours in the Word, or to spend hours practicing Christian virtues. You just often do not have that kind of endurance, and a prayer like The Jesus Prayer is something anybody can do. Anybody can do it at any moment. You can pray it when you are sick. You can pray it when you are driving. It does not require this huge level of spiritual endurance; yet, it invites Christ into your life where you are and in the midst of your infirmity. This is just what we see with the publican.
Hank: We do not pray it as a magic coin, but it is efficacious.
Nicole: No. We do not pray it in a superstitious way. Just to give an illustration: my husband and I, early in our marriage — I think marriage is interesting in the early phase because you are trying to figure out what routines you are going to follow and trying to figure out all the rituals you want follow as a couple in building your life together — at one point, we kind of realized that the afternoon was a tough time for us. He would come home from work. We just did not have anything that would make that time of day special, where it made us feel that we were really connected. So, we decided every time someone comes through the door from work, shopping or something, the other person is to get up from whatever they are doing, and come and say, “Hello.” It does not have to be a big emotional moment; it is just a point of contact. We started doing that, and it was huge. It was huge. Just that small gesture allows you to kind of invest these moments in the relationship with meaning. I think that something similar is at work in The Jesus Prayer. Aside from it being sort of sacramental, of timeless spiritual importance, at the end of the day, it is a moment of connection, a bid for connection with God. It is turning toward God in these moments. That is really the stuff of relationship.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline-featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker, and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an adjunct professorof apologetics at Biola University and a faculty member at Summit Ministries.
Before he became a popular apologist, Jim would listen to the Bible Answer Man broadcast in the car while working stakeouts as an undercover investigator. He has since masterfully melded his unique capabilities as a cold-case detective with his passion for Christian apologetics to provide believers and skeptics alike the tools and evidence to make the case for the Christian faith.
The following is a snapshot from a recent episode of Hank Unplugged, where Hank and Jim discussed apatheism.
Hank Hanegraaff: There is a new play on the word “atheism” called “apatheism”— the new apathy about God — which says God’s existence is not considered a relevant question. Seems that this is maybe as dangerous as atheism with respect to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some people call it the power of meh. But this apatheism, this apathy, how do you shake people out of their lethargy?
J. Warner Wallace: I will tell you this: I am writing a book right now with Sean McDowell on how to teach Christian apologetics to Gen Z [Generation Z] because we do a lot of this either in a worldview conference or in a classroom setting. About 70 percent of our audiences are young people. I think that apathy is a far greater danger. It’s a far bigger hazard.
I remember I had a prosecutor whom I did most of my cold cases with whose name was John. He had a co-prosecutor named Ethan on several of our cases. They would come over to my house to prep a case, and I would be sitting for weeks with these two. Ethan and I would argue passionately. Ethan is a very adamant atheist, and we would get involved in an hour conversation at a time talking about theism — God’s existence. Meanwhile, John would get so upset that he would finally scream at Ethan and say, “Ethan, stop taking to Jim. He loves the fact that you’re interested. You need to be more like me. Jim knows I couldn’t care less about any of this stuff. So, he doesn’t talk to me about it. If you continue to show this kind of passion, he’s going to be talking to you about this all day, and we’re not going to get any work done.” So, he’d say, “You need to be more like me.” He is absolutely right. It was difficult to talk to John about these issues primarily because his apathy was paralyzing. He loves sports; but if I were going to talk to him about some small Division 5 team in some rural part of Wisconsin, he does not care. “Why should I care about that?” This is the way he saw the search for meaning and God. Why should I care about it?
I think apathy, and overcoming apathy, is a key to what we are going to have to face in the next generation with Gen Z. I think there are some strategies for this.
Look, no one is apathetic at a point of crisis. I do not have to worry about apathy in my victim families, for example. They are all passionately engaged in the process. They want to see justice. It turns out that apathy is that kind of thing milling around until the rubber meets the road. What we have to do is show our young people where and how the rubber meets the road. Where, how, and why this is so critical. A lot of this is going to come to them through narrative, by way of storytelling, by way of examples. They love examples. They love storytelling. We are going to have to tell the stories that amplify for them why they should care. They are probably going to be stories of tragedies, stories of crisis of meaning, or crisis of purpose. I think when we do that, it is not trying to falsely ignite a passion. This is where all apathy vanishes. It vanishes when somebody finally steals your car. It vanishes when someone finally, on the basis of a worldview you do not agree with, does something to harm you. This is where apathy vanishes.
I think in the end, we have to help ourselves. Let’s face it, if we are not modeling energy, passion, and interest, if we are not clearly passionate about what we believe, then good luck trying to transfer that to the people you’re working with, the young people you are leading. It is one thing to say, “I do not understand why anyone does not come to youth group.” Well, I am going to be honest. I am going to look and say first, “What does the leader look like? Is the leader passionate?” Passion is contagious. It is one of those things that is caught rather than taught. I think that is part of it, too.
There are several things we can do. For example, I noticed when I would start with young people, and I would say, “Hey, in eight weeks, we are going to the campus of UC Berkeley, because I want you to see what that campus is like, and I am going to put you on the campus at Berkeley, so you are going to have to witness and talk to students, most of whom are not going to be Christians or religious. I am going to give you some strategies. We are going to train you for eight weeks. We are also going to put you on stage where you are going to have a chance to debate with atheist speakers and atheist thinkers.” Suddenly, apathy is lifted. They want to go on the trip to Berkeley because it sounds exciting. So, they will go, but I have never returned with an apathetic student. Putting them in that hot seat is what ignited their passion to do it again. I also have never done a trip like that where it did not grow every year. If you went the first year, you wanted to go every year. So, I would have more and more students that I would be taking over the course of four or five years. Those kinds of trips put the rubber to the road, and that is where we see apathy go away.
There’s just no limit to bad ideas these days. And apparently, most folks are too busy or too distracted to realize just how bad they really are.
As Jay Richards notes in his new book The Human Advantage, “Every day brings a new story of delicate snowflakes who mark off ‘safe spaces,’ denounce ever tinier ‘microaggressions,’ announce trigger warnings, and issue surreal demands for faculty to submit to seminars that resemble Maoist ‘struggle sessions’ in the Red China of old.” (See my letter this month to CRI partners.)
That’s craziness on steroids. But it’s not enough to merely recognize the madness. It must be countered by those still in command of their senses if we’re to avoid the deadly fruits of this insanity run amok.
To receive a copy ofThe Human Advantage for yourself or as a gift to a friend, colleague, or loved one as our appreciation of your support this month, simply visit www.equip.org. Or call 888-7000-CRI today and make a tax-deductible gift to support the life-changing outreaches of CRI.
Larry Johnston, executive vice president CAO at the Christian Research Institute, was recently on Hank Unplugged. Hank and Larry talked about the need for Christians to shift their paradigms on stewardship. The following is a snapshot of their conversation.
Hank Hanegraaff: There has been a dearth of good stewardship teaching in the church. As a result, we are far different today than the war generations were. War generations understood giving because a robust theology of stewardship was being communicated in churches. Today, that is not happening. In many churches and many traditions, the whole idea of tithing is lost on people, much the less freewill giving. So, there are now tippers, and not tithers, not knowing anything about freewill giving.
Part of what we are seeking to do today is to let people know that stewardship is not something that ought to be shunned in the church as though we have to apologize for it. The sin is not communicating to people the significance of stewardship and how they should be involved in stewardship. Let’s talk about that a little bit. Stewardship principles. We are talking about people getting involved with something that is transcendently important to such an extent that we can say with certainty — this is true of me and true of you — that if I really want to find out where your heart is, all I have to do is look at two things: one is your calendar and the other is your checkbook.
Larry Johnston: Both are quite revealing. You and I were chuckling earlier in the week when I told the story about the $100 bill and the $1 bill. Both were facing the end of their lives. They were off to the recycling plant. The $1 bill asked the $100 bill, “Well, as you come to the end of your run here, how was your life?” The $100 bill replied, “Oh, man! You won’t believe it. It was just fabulous. The resorts, the 5-star hotels, the 7-course meals, yachts, it was just absolutely an amazing life.” The $100 bill asked the $1 bill, “How about you?” The $1 bill replied, “Ah, man! My life was a drag. All I ever did was go to church, go to church, go to church.”
Humorous, but painfully humorous.
Hank: Yes, painfully humorous. Let’s talk about stewardship.
Larry: We have spent a lot of time talking about paradigms, because the truth be told, we do not think about our paradigms as much as we think with them. Paradigm shifts, while the term has become a bit trite, perhaps overused, I would contend that the great paradigm shift is the one I referred to briefly earlier, which is this: it is not how much of my money that I am going to give away; rather, it is how much of God’s resources do I need, and given the fact that I am on this planet for a brief season — Scripture will even use the metaphor of a vapor, we are like a passing vapor (James 4:14) — as I spend my years on this planet, is my mind focused on those things that have genuine eternal consequences, or am I just somewhat narcissistically focused upon me and my stuff?
Hank: So interesting. I have been moved by a specific biblical passage many times; it has to do with the prayer of David. It is very moving because he is thanking God for the privilege of being able to give to the work of the Lord. David said, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” and “now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 17 NIV). What is interesting about this to me is this: if you go back to the history of the Israelites, they were taught to tithe. They were taught to give a tenth. Well, what David is now saying is they had graduated from tithing to giving joyously and giving willingly to one of the great projects in all of history, of course, at that time the project was building a temple. A temple where the Shekinah glory of the Lord would dwell among the people. It was a very worthwhile project, and the people who bought into the project thought, Through this project we can make an incredible difference. Indeed, they did because ultimately out of the temple comes another temple, and then out of the second temple comes a living temple. A temple not built by human hands. All of that was seeded actually by people who were giving generously at the time of David, a thousand years before Christ.
Larry: I think a part of the journey from a more impoverished notion of stewardship toward a more joyous notion of stewardship is the migration from what I must give to what I should give to what I get to give. It is a joy to be a conduit of God’s resources to bring about transformation in the world.
Dr. Nathan Jacobs has served as a professor at Calvin College and Seminary, Trinity College and Graduate School, and University of Kentucky. His specializations include modern philosophy and Eastern patristic thought. In addition, he is a fine arts painter and filmmaker. Nathan recently was a guest on Hank Unplugged. The following is an excerpt from their discussion on the faith handed to us from the early church fathers.
Hank Hanegraaff: What I love about the conversation thus far is you keep referring back to the fathers. Maybe some definitions are in order. So often we talk about the patristics. We even use the term “pope.” That is offsetting. We say, “priest.” Oftentimes, in Protestant context, that is an offsetting word as well. We hear the word “Father,” and people immediately say, “We are not supposed to call anybody Father.” Yet, we are saying, “Father Steve,” or “Father John,” or whoever. But, Protestants say, “Do not call anybody Father.” That is kind of the thinking. Sometimes it is helpful to recognize that there is a context. Obviously, when we are talking about the term “Father,” there is a context. There is more to the passage than “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father’” (Matthew 23:9 NIV). Jesus goes on to explicate that. So often when we hear these words, they are off-putting because we do not understand what they mean.
Nathan Jacobs: Right. When we are talking about the church fathers, this is a term that recognizes the fact that Paul identifies certain people as his spiritual children. He is identifying himself as their spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 4:19; 2 Timothy 1:2). John, when he is writing to people, he identifies this hierarchy of spiritual growth: some of them are little children and others are full grown (1 John 2:12–14).
One of the things that the church — the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Christian church historically — in the first millennium recognized was that there were certain people who went before us who were fully spiritually mature, who received and lived out the things handed down to them, and they were the ones who spiritually nurtured and cared for us, and we look to them as spiritual guides and spiritual fathers. When we look at that term “patristic,” this term is derived from patros (Greek) or pater (Latin), we are referring to those Christian writers who went before us, who received, lived out, and handed down to the next generation those things that they received in turn, which is what tradition refers to — that which is handed down.
When I am referring to the church fathers, I am referring to those folks, largely and usually, those from the first millennium. That is how church fathers is typically used. These are the folks who were early Christian writers, who defended core doctrines of the faith. Oftentimes this is related to people like those at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), who received, defended, and upheld against heretics, the Arians,1 the doctrine of the Trinity. Church fathers at Constantinople defended Christology and the full humanity of Christ over and against the Apollinarian2 heresies. Church fathers defended the doctrine that He was truly incarnate. At Ephesus, church fathers defended over and against the Nestorian3 heresies, concluding that Christ is only one person and that there is only one Son of God, the one who is with the Father, and the one who dwelt among us.
These individuals who defended the faith and handed on to us the faith that they received, those are the church fathers. This is one of the things that I think is sometimes misunderstood. In the first millennium you had ecumenical councils. Ecumenical refers to the whole house. These councils happened only seven times in the first millennium prior to the Great Schism between the Western church and the Eastern church.
You had these seven ecumenical councils — and lots of folks are unaware that there were seven ecumenical councils (that’s seven times on seven core doctrines). The Church said this is the faith that was handed down to us. Those councils form the basis for what is typically called Nicaean Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, these core doctrines of the Trinity and Christology.
One of the things that is interesting is, for whatever reason, the presumption is when you hear the word “council,” it must have been a bunch of academics or something like that, or bishops sitting around hashing out what they thought was the best answer to a given question. But when you look at those councils and what they have to say, what is fascinating is that the question is never “What is the most philosophical savvy answer?” or “What is the latest trend in the academy?” The question is always “What is the faith we received?” “What did the apostles hand down?” That is why the declaration is always This is the faith of Peter. This is the faith that Cyril taught. They always deferred back to the prior generations who had received and handed down the faith. They never saw themselves as academics trying to solve riddles or come up with new, innovative, and creative insights. The question has always been “What have we received?” They were curators, which is the best way to put it.
Hank: By the way, just parenthetically, is not that exactly what the apostle Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15: “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance” (v. 3 NIV)?
Nathan: Absolutely! That is why he exhorts others to do the same. To hold on to what has been handed down. That is why in Jude 3 there is reference to the faith once given over to the saints. This is crucial as they saw it. Staying the course in Christianity ultimately meant sticking with and protecting and being a preserver of the faith that was handed down, which is why it was so crucial for the church fathers to look back at what was handed down to us because that is what we are entrusted with. This is the pearl of great price. What has been said about it? What is that pearl? It is our job to protect it, and to not innovate. Innovate is a very bad word among the church fathers because that is the epitome of what you are not supposed to be doing.
Hank: You are supposed to perpetuate — not innovate.
Nathan: That is right. That would be a great way of putting it. That is one of the reasons why with lots of issues, yes, I tend to go back. I look, and I say, “Well, what did the church fathers have to say on this topic? What did they hand down?” Because at the end of the day, if I am looking at a doctrine, and I cannot find it advocated by the church fathers, it is a medieval doctrine that emerges, say like from Anslem or someone like that, that is problematic theologically, since that would be prima facia, face value evidence, of an innovation, and it is not the faith that was handed down to us.
Arians were those embracing the false teaching of Arius of Alexandria (AD 246–336). Arius taught that the Son was created, and that there was a time when Christ was not. This was a denial of Christ’s full divinity.
Apollinarian refers to the false teachings of Apollinarius or Apollinaris (AD 310–390). Apollinarius taught that the eternal Logos (Word), i.e., God the Son, replaced the human soul of Jesus. In other words, the Lord was the divine Word residing in a soulless human body. This was a denial of Christ’s full humanity.
Nestorian refers to the false teaching of Nestorianism, which is the idea that the two natures in Christ were separate. In other words, the God-man was two persons as opposed to one. Nestorianism denied the unity of Christ, who is one person as opposed to two. Nestorianism is associated with Nestorius of Syria (386–450), Archbishop of Constantinople. While Nestorius was opposed to identifying Mary as the theotokos (bearer of God), preferring to use either anthropotokos (bearer of man) or Christotokos (bearer of Christ), it is debatable whether or not Nestorius affirmed and taught the radical dichotomy between Christ’s humanity and divinity identified as Nestorianism.
The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.
You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.
Anne Graham Lotz was a recent guest on Hank Unplugged. Her father Billy Graham called her the best preacher in the family, and the New York Times labeled her as one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. Hank and Anne had a conversation about The Daniel Key: 20 Choices That Make All the Difference. They discussed what we can learn from Daniel and the living Word of God. Here is a snapshot of their discussion on making life-defining choices and living our lives for an audience of one.
Hank Hanegraaff: It is the choices that one makes early on in life that make all the difference in the world. I mean, you made some choices when you were eight or nine years of age. You chose to read the Bible. You chose to be outspoken to use the talents that God has given you for His glory.
Anne Graham Lotz: Yes, I did. The first choice that was life defining was when I was eight or nine. I had been watching a film about Jesus on television; it came to the scene of the cross, and I knew that He had died for me and that had to be a work of the Holy Spirit. I got down on my knees, and I told God I was sorry. I knew it was my sin that was responsible for the death of His Son. I asked Him to forgive me and come into my heart. I claimed Jesus as my Savior. I can remember when I got up off my knees, I felt lighter. I did not even know I had been carrying a burden, but whatever it was, it was gone. I remember going down the steps to tell my mother the decision I had made, and that was a very critical choice that I made at a young age.
Then it followed, I do not remember it so much as a choice as just a deep desire to read God’s Word. By the time I was nine, I had read the Bible through, and I loved it. It began a life-long love affair with the Scriptures. I love God’s Word. That is a choice that I made, but it was a choice that flowed out of passion. It was a heartfelt choice.
When I was sixteen, I made the choice — and I cannot remember anything triggering this — it just occurred to me that when I stood before God, I would give an account to Him for my life, and the way I had lived it. I think up until then, I thought I was Billy Graham’s daughter, and Ruth Graham’s daughter, and you know I would get credit for what they had done. I realized that I would stand alone before God, and I could not ride upon anybody’s coattails. I remember kneeling down in that same room where I had given my life to Christ years earlier, and just surrendered my life to the Lord for service. I just told Him that He could have my life, and I wanted Him to use me so that when I stood before Him, I would have something to show for my life.
It was interesting that within that year, I led four of my friends to Christ. I met my husband not too long after that, married at a young age. At the time, I would think God had not really heard my prayer, but looking back, I can see how He withheld certain things from me in order to rivet my attention on Him and to prepare me to serve Him in really a remarkable way. It has been a lifelong service. He took me up on my surrender. There was not anything dramatic at that moment, it was a decision that I made, which let Him have my life and to use me for His glory. Now at my age, looking back, I can see the pattern that He has led me all the way.
Hank: You know, one of the things that I really liked about your books, and I love about you in general, is that you are transparent. You mentioned your late husband, the caregiving that you were involved in for so many years. The mental deterioration. The emotional pain. You share this, and I love that because for a lot of people they look at Christian leaders and think somehow or another they are walking on air. They do not have any problems. They do not live in the real world. But, when you transparently share what happened in your own life, particularly with your husband, it allows you to relate to people in a way that if you kept this to yourself you could not.
Anne: Well, you know, this is another choice I made. When I was seventeen years of age, I had people trying to force me into their mold. You know, everybody had an idea of what Billy Graham’s daughter ought to be like, look like, people who should be my friends, and I felt very bound by the opinions of other people. Somebody told me, “Anne, your looking at God, your relationship with God is colored, like looking though a prism. You know it is colored by all these people’s opinions, and you need to just look at Him directly.” I made the decision when I was seventeen to live my life to please God. I knew that if I pleased God, my parents and grandparents would be pleased. Some people would not understand the choices that I made, and what I did, but you cannot please everyone anyway. I made the choice when I was seventeen to live my life for an audience of one.
It was a life decision that has borne lots of fruit. I have been in some places, and on some platforms, where if you really just cared about the opinions of other people, and you cared about being popular, or you just — for me anyway — I would be tied in knots. Certainly, I can get nervous. You know you do when you get on a major platform. But, at the same time, my aim is not to please the audience, my aim is not to be invited back, my aim is to please the Lord, who put me in that place and has given me a message to deliver. That was a very freeing choice that I made.
Hank: It is so important. All too many people today are not giving a message for an audience of one, which is precisely what we have to do. It is not about being politically correct. It is not about being popular. It is not about having a bigger platform. At the end, you are going to account to God for what you did with your life.
Anne: That is right. That is a very solemn thing that stays with me every day. I know that I am going to stand before Him. It is what motivated me to surrender in the first place. At the age of sixteen, I know I am going to stand before Him, I know I am going to give an account for the way I not just lived my life personally but also how I served Him. With all my heart, I want to fulfill the purpose that He has for my life. I know He has a purpose for me. I want to fulfill it. In fact, one of the verses He gave to me is in Philippians 1. After my husband went to heaven, it says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (v. 21 NIV). Then it says, you know, that I am left behind. I am not going to quote it outright, but I have been left here because there is still fruitful labor for me to do (cf. vv. 22–26). I have a strong sense that God has taken my mother, my father, and my husband. In a very real way, I am a widow and I am an orphan. But I have a strong sense of purpose. God has me here for a reason. I want to fulfill that reason, and fulfill the purpose that He has for my life before I see Him face-to-face.
Hank Hanegraaff: You say that the real problem with pornography is not that it shows too much but it shows too little of the human person. Expand on that.
Matt Fradd: Right. The problem with porn is not nudity. The human body. What is the human body? It expresses the mystery of the human person. It is not an animate provider of pleasure, like a steak or a keg of beer. We do not inhabit our bodies. We are our bodies. So, to exploit the body is to exploit the person. If the body was worthless, you could not degrade it. When you say, “You degraded her or him,” it presupposes that she or he had some grade to begin with. It is precisely because the body is good that porn is wicked.
The same thing with sex. Sex is good. If it were not, you could not make it ugly. You cannot make mud ugly. Sexual desire is good. Well, whose idea was it anyway? In God’s first commandment to humanity, Genesis 1:28, He says, “Be fruitful and multiply” (NKJV). I do not think He meant grow grapefruits and invent calculators. He meant have sex and fill the world. It is precisely because sex, sexual desires, and nudity are so powerful, beautiful, and good, which is why I love taking my children to museums. I want them to see beautiful naked art that expresses the mystery of the person.
Porn does not do that. For all of its exposure, porn always ends up suppressing and obfuscating the personhood of the performer. Porn says, “I don’t care about her thoughts, dreams, her past, or what happened to her when she was young. All of that would get in the way of what I am attempting to do here.” In a sense — this might sound a little hyperbolic, but I think there is a point here — porn does what death does. It separates with knife-like precision the mind, the person, the soul — however you want to put it — from the body. Think about a Playboy centerfold or something like that; she does not have to be alive. “It does not matter to me, I do not care about her,” says porn.
It seems to be that if there was ever a behavior in which you would engage with wherein the personhood of the other should be recognized and affirmed, it ought to be the marital embrace. That is precisely what is not affirmed in pornography. That is why it is so ghastly.
All of that said, I do not want people listening to think that I am coming down hard on them, because pornography feels great. It is very pleasurable. It makes me feel powerful, masculine, strong, and in control. Of course, many young women struggle with pornography, and they might say something like, “Well, it makes me feel desired, and pleasurable.” Sometimes we can only begin to overcome something when we admit we like doing it. I can remember hearing an alcoholic saying he was able to begin to break free of alcoholism only when he admitted he loved getting drunk but that it was killing him. So, he had to make a choice.
I think we have to be honest about the worm at the end of the hook, as it were, the thing we go after, the thing we get from it, but then very soberly admit that we do not want to be these sorts of people. Like, I do not want to be the kind of husband who has to creep away from my wife late at night to have an intimate encounter with my iPhone. I do not want to have to diligently delete my history files so my kids do not find out dad’s a porn addict. That is not the sort of person I want to be. I do not want to be remembered as the guy who consumed this much porn every day, even if the church had nothing to say on the matter, or Scripture had nothing to say on the matter. It is just not who I want to be. I want my life to be good, true, and beautiful. I want my sex life to be good, true, and beautiful.
It seems to me, and all the research seems to be backing this up, that if you want to be sexually dissatisfied, then pornography is the way to go. That is what leads to sexual ugliness and falseness. There you go. I am ranting now.
Hank: No, you are not. I love what you are talking about. I was thinking as you were talking, Matt, that my good friend, Joe Dallas, he lived a gay lifestyle for many, many years, and I do not know anyone on the planet today that knows more about that subject and delivers it in a more compassionate and compelling way than he does. I was thinking about some similarities with you, in that you are not talking about something that you do not know anything about; you have experienced this from an early age. You know precisely how it enslaves; therefore, there is a passion coming out in your speaking and writing. It not like you are ranting or rambling. You are passionate and for a good reason.
Matt: Thank you. I hope it is a coherent rant, if nothing else. I, like almost every male on the planet, have seen pornography. When I was twelve and thirteen years old, my best friend’s mom — he was a single-parent child, and she was not married — would buy us porn. She would drive us down to the movie store, she would buy us VHS tapes, and even buy us hard liquor. At the age of twelve, here we are drinking vodka, pretending to like it, watching porn. That was me twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen years old. My parents had no idea about it. This was before the time of the internet. That was the world I was immersed in. I never felt comfortable with it. I liked doing it. But, I always felt this was not particularly masculine behavior. It was not until I was seventeen years old that I encountered the person of Jesus Christ when I decided I did not want to live like this, and that I should not be living like this. Thus began the long road to recovery.
Of course, recovery is not something that happens in an instance. It is not something that happens to you. I think too often we treat recovery like that. When will I be free? But, as Christians, our goal is heaven, and sexual purity is part of the fuel that is going to help us get there, if you want to put it that way. But, it is better to think of recovery as a daily choice that I make by my actions.
Hank: I think when dealing with the Christian life, it is not just heaven at the end of the rainbow; rather, it is that Christ came to give us life that is life to the full in the present. If you are engaging in these behaviors, there is something that happens to your soul. There is something that is so dissatisfying and debilitating in the present that you cannot experience life that is life to the fullest.
Matt: I could not agree more. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about this topic. I feel like one of the things that prevents the seed of the gospel to penetrate the hearts of men and women, part of that, is they are up to their eyeballs in degrading pornography. How long can one keep within one’s mind that the human person is good to which the only proper attitude is live while at the same time subject myself to body-punishing, women-hating porn? I am not going to be detailed here, but if people are listening and they have not seen pornography since the 1980s, it is something very different. Today, most porn sites have rape categories, shame categories, and this is the first thing children are exposed to. It is not the whole Playboy centerfold thing that we might remember from our youth. It is one of those obstacles to the reception of the gospel, and that is why I am passionate about it.
Hank: It really rewires the brain as well. I thought that was one of the great insights in The Porn Myth. It is not new, but you have certainly hammered home the point that there is neuroplasticity in the brain, and that pornography actually ends up, in a very real way, rewiring our anatomy.
Matt: Right! This is not scare tactics. This is not hyperbole. This is what the data shows. As I sit here, I believe there are thirty-nine peer-reviewed neuroscience-based studies on porn use, and everyone supports the addiction model. I know people, especially in the Christian community, might feel a bit uncomfortable with the term addiction, thinking it is a word people use to escape culpability, or it is overused, and I agree with that, but just because a word can be abused does not mean it cannot be used appropriately.
What we are seeing is all sorts of things; like there was a study that came out in 2014 at the Max Planck Institute in Germany — it is like the Harvard of Germany. They discovered that to the degree in which one was looking at pornography, there was smaller parts of the brain, the brain becomes desensitized so you feel that you have to continually watch more deviant forms of pornography to feel normal, which leads all sorts of things like anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.
With all of this, you have been wondering why you have been seeing more commercials for Viagra lately. There might be a good reason for that. Again, this is not a scare tactic thought up with by some Christian group. These are people like Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, who is the clinical urologist at Harvard Medical School, or Dr. Norman Doidge, who wrote the book The Brain That Changes Itself. These are not Christian people, but they are saying without a doubt we are seeing a huge spike in erectile dysfunction in young men because their brains have become so accustomed to pixels on a screen that they do not know how to interact with a real-life person.
You might get married one day only to discover that it is not working because you have burnt your brain out on this stuff. That is real. That is scary. It should be scary because it is bloody well true.
There is my friend Gary Wilson. He is an atheist. He runs the website yourbrainonporn.com. It is a great website that compiles all the data coming out of academia that you can go read for yourself. Again, not science fiction but science.
For this reason, more people are turning against porn. It is sort of like the tobacco apologist back in the 1990s who tried to tell us that there is no connection between smoking and cancer; you say that today, and any teenager is going to laugh at you or think you’re joking. Something similar is happening here. I think the culture is beginning to turn against porn because when everybody is either themselves addicted to porn, struggling with porn to some capacity and sees the negative effects, or loves somebody who does, it becomes more and more difficult to believe the worn-out mantra from the porn industry that this is just fine behavior for well-rounded adults, and do not get carried away, and so forth. It is just a joke.
O.S. Hawkins, author of The Joshua Code, is the president and chief executive officer of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was on a recent episode of Hank Unplugged. The following is a snapshot of Hank and O. S.’s conversation on the three levels of prayer, the shadow of death, and being an ambassador for Christ.
Hank Hanegraaff: There is so much in The Joshua Code. You talk about three levels of prayer. This caught my eye when I read the book — the presenting of a petition, the pressing of a petition, and the persisting in a petition. Cash that out.
O.S. Hawkins: Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).* These are three levels of prayer. When you know the will of God, you ask, and you receive. You know that God is not willing that we perish (1 Timothy 2:4). We ask Christ to save us, and we come in faith to Him. He will answer that prayer. If we know the will of God, we ask and we receive.
The second level of prayer is “seek and you will find.” If you do not know the will of God, you keep seeking in His Word, and you will find it. He does not want to veil His will to you.
Thirdly, if you do know the will of God but the door is closed, the verb tense says to keep on knocking; do not stop, just be persistent, keep on knocking and it will be open unto you. Most of us never get past that first level of just presenting a petition, but we need to move on to pressing it, and persisting in it.
Hank: Talk to me like you would talk to someone you are pastoring. I have an incurable disease from the human standpoint — it is mantel cell lymphoma. You can go into remission for long periods of time, but it is an incurable disease. There are lots of breakthroughs with the disease and so forth, so maybe that will change in the future, but right now, it is an incurable disease. Every single day, I do that, I persist in the petition. I ask the Lord to heal me in accordance with His will. Not my will but Thy will be done. But, every single day, I ask the Lord to heal me. It is as though I can picture myself touching the hem of His garment, and feel the healing virtue of Christ flow into my body. It is not as though, Pastor, — and I will call you Pastor because that is what you are in many ways to me and so many others — it is not that I fear death, or I feel like I have to grasp at life but I feel that there is so much more that I could be doing, and that urgency is continually pressed upon me. I pray this every single day. Give me some guidance.
O.S.: OK, Hank. I would pray exactly the same thing, understanding that even Paul prayed that. He talks about that physical infirmity that he had. Whether it was epilepsy or eye problems, what it was we do not know, but he had a thorn in his flesh. I believe it was a physical infirmity. He asked the Lord three times to take it from him, he kept persisting, asking God to heal him, but God did not do it. God came out on the other end and said that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:1–10). It always is.
The Bible uses a word, as you know, Hank, mysterion; it is a mystery. It is a sacred secret. Paul left Trophimus at Meletus sick, the Bible says (2 Timothy 4:20). Why did not Paul heal him? This is all wrapped up in the mystery of God.
As it relates to death, I have a devotional in The Believer’s Code: 365 Devotions to Unlock the Blessings of God’s Word (Thomas Nelson, 2017). The unique thing about The Believer’s Code, a 365-day devotional, is that every day has a code word that we live by. For example, in one of the devotions on Psalm 23, the code word is shadow. We all know what a shadow is. We have all seen them. Well, this Psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). No believer ever walks through the valley of death. Christ did, three days and three nights, and He came out victorious on the other end of the grave. He resurrected, and He held up some keys, John the Revelator says, and Jesus said, “I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). The believer does not walk through the valley of death; rather, he only walks through the valley of the shadow of death.
A shadow might frighten you. You come home at night, put your key in the front door, the porch light casts a shadow, and you jump back. The shadow might frighten you, but it cannot hurt you. You can walk right through it. That is what the psalmist says we do with the shadow of death. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Death is just a shadow. We use that code word shadow to think about during the day, to be reminded that the believer has no fear of death, that death has lost its sting, as Paul says for the believer in 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 because death is only a shadow.
Hank: Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Hank: Talk about being an ambassador for Jesus Christ. This is something that has really been pressing on my heart as well, because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, though most of us are secret agents who have never blown our cover before the unregenerate world. We are called to be ambassadors. If we are not ambassadors, the culture is continually going to corrupt and corrode. I oftentimes think that people put the focus on the pagan world and say, “Look what the pagan world’s doing!” And I think there is a place for that, but oftentimes I think they fail to recognize that pagans are going to do what pagans do. The real problem is Christians are not doing what they are supposed to do, and as a result of that, the salt has lost its savor.
O.S.: Exactly. You know Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20). We hear a lot about ambassadors being appointed today to Israel. We just appointed another one to Germany. To begin with the ambassadors, you have to look at their citizenship. It is obvious that an ambassador for the United States to a foreign nation has to be a citizen of America. No alien can ever represent our nation. A true ambassador of Christ is one, as Paul says in Philippians, whose “citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
An ambassador has to be someone with character. Should an ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords be anyone else? A representative of Christ ought to have the highest moral standards, qualities, and values. A reputation that is spotless. Good conduct. Consistency. You know a good ambassador has to communicate. What good would it be to have an ambassador to another country that could not communicate and speak their language. The effective ambassadors for Christ need to have constant daily contact with headquarters — the Lord Jesus Christ. There is so much that is wrapped up in this, so many analogies and parallels to what Paul talked about being ambassadors for Christ.