Jonathan Noyes

We Need Restorative Rest

Ultimate rest is found in Jesus, not in vacations or material objects. Christ has already done everything for us. Just like the man with the withered hand, you have been restored by Jesus—maybe not through physical healing, but through something even better. Because of his sacrifice on the cross, we can rest.

In a culture defined by never-ending news feeds and social media at our fingertips, where do we go for rest? Vacations? I don’t know about you, but when I return from a vacation, I’m often more exhausted than when I left. That’s because true rest isn’t found on exotic beaches or mountain retreats. It’s found in Christ. Here’s what I mean by that.
In Luke 6, we encounter two events having to do with Sabbath rest. In the first, Jesus and his disciples are walking through fields of grain. As they go, they pluck the grain, rub it between their fingers, and eat it. This elicits a harsh rebuke from the Pharisees. They claim picking grain and eating it is a violation of the Sabbath command. Jesus responds emphatically, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).
In the very next verse, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue on another Sabbath day. Knowing the Pharisees are again watching him, he calls forward a man who has a physical handicap, a shriveled hand. With all eyes on him, Jesus says, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” Looking right at the Pharisees, Jesus then says to the man, “Stretch out your hand,” and the man’s hand is restored (Luke 6:6–10).
Both events infuriated the Pharisees while teaching us a very important lesson about Sabbath rest. Sabbath means rest for the restless and unburdening the burdened. The entire purpose of the Sabbath is restoration. Jesus could have waited to heal this man, but he didn’t. Instead, he restored the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. Likewise, Jesus restores us as we find rest in him. Through his resurrection, Jesus became the truer and better Sabbath, allowing us to forever cease laboring to attain God’s favor and to rest in his mercy and grace.
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Why You Need to Start with a Biblical Understanding of Human Beings

The current culture wants to identify and judge you according to what group you belong to and by your latest mistake, and once you’re labeled, that label sticks. This is a false view. The correct view—the biblical view—leaves room for change through repentance. You don’t identify with your sin; you identify with being made in God’s image. Upon repentance, you become a child of God, and no one is out of God’s reach. You are not your sin. You are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, two-spirit, or any of the countless other ways in which people choose to self-identify. 

Stop teaching your kids they can be anything they want. It’s not true. I have four daughters. The culture wants to tell them they can be anything, including boys. But no matter how hard they try, they will never be boys.
The idea that you can be whatever you want when it comes to sexuality and gender is based on an ancient lie. I say the lie is ancient because it’s the same lie the serpent used to deceive Eve in the garden of Eden: “Did God really say…?” This is the primal heresy, and humanity has been in rebellion against God ever since, thinking our ways are better than his. There’s more, though.
The ultimate battle is always over truth. Here, it’s the truth about the fundamental nature of what it means to be human. This is what’s known as anthropology. Having been heavily influenced by naturalism, our culture would have us believe we’re products of mutation and time. This view ultimately finds its end in the understanding that we are just matter in motion. But if we’re just matter in motion, naturalism can’t offer any transcendent meaning to life apart from what we arbitrarily assign to it.
Undergirded by naturalism, the story authored by the LGBTQIA2S+ culture goes a step further. They would have you believe you find meaning and identity in your sexual desires or gender identity. Not only is this a profoundly shallow view of what it means to be a human being, but also there are victims of this lie. This is evidenced by the rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, and suicides in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The thing they are searching for—mainly meaning, purpose, and identity—aren’t found where they’re looking.
In response, I suggest we offer a better view of what it means to be human, a higher anthropology. When we lead with a biblical anthropology, we accomplish four things.
First, we establish that human beings are much more than their sexual desires and gender identities. According to the true story of reality, humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation (Gen. 1:26–31), his handiwork, made with a purpose (Eph. 2:10). Sex and gender are part of God’s perfect creation, are intrinsically good, and serve a purpose.
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Four Common (and Unhelpful) Responses to the Exclusivity of Christ

When Christians claim Christ is the only way, we’re expressing a vital detail of our worldview. This is not intolerance, arrogance, or narrow-mindedness. And it’s more than just our opinion. We could be wrong, but only reasoned arguments could reveal that.

The most offensive part of the gospel, and the most common objection to Christianity proper, is the idea that there is only one way to God: Jesus. It’s offensive because it seems arrogant, bigoted, and narrow-minded. The claim is often met with one of four common and unhelpful responses. They might sound legitimate, but they aren’t. Here’s why.
“It’s intolerant or arrogant to think you’re right.”
Believing you’re right doesn’t make you intolerant. A simple illustration makes this clear. Imagine you have a friend who goes to the doctor. The doctor tells your friend, “You have cancer, and you need an operation.” And your friend responds, “You’re mean!”
What would you think of your friend if she ignored her doctor’s advice because she thought the doctor was mean to say she had cancer? You’d probably think your friend’s comment was silly, even foolish. It’s silly because it isn’t mean to give a diagnosis someone doesn’t like. It’s foolish because even if the doctor is mean, he could still be right. Your friend could still have a deadly disease.
The response “You’re intolerant” or “You’re arrogant” to the claim that Jesus is the only way amounts to the same thing: “You’re mean.” And it’s also silly and foolish. Just because someone doesn’t like the spiritual diagnosis, that doesn’t mean the Christian has a character flaw, and there’s always the outside possibility the Christian might be right. The “intolerant” challenge is just a way of ignoring or dismissing the claim by attacking the Christian. Whenever the challenge is about the person, not the view, you know it’s aiming at the wrong target. This is an ad hominem fallacy, and it’s not a valid response.
Christians think that people are dying of the disease of sin and that radical surgery must be performed by Jesus. This doesn’t mean we’re right, but it does show that simply dismissing our claims on the grounds of alleged intolerance or arrogance misses the point.

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Why I Left Atheism for Christianity

Atheism reduces human beings to cosmic junk, moist robots with no ultimate purpose or meaning. This is where my struggle came in. On atheism, nothing quenched my thirst for significance or my desire for justice. Nothing ultimately matters on atheism. This wasn’t the testimony of my soul, though. I knew life had meaning.

I’m often asked what led to my converting from atheism to Christianity. The answer sometimes surprises: reality. Reality is the way the world really is. It doesn’t change according to our likes and dislikes. Because of this, when you don’t live according to reality, you bump into it. As an atheist, when looking for answers to important questions, I bumped hard into reality.
The first bump came as I tried to explain what caused the beginning of the universe. It’s not as complicated as you might think. There are only two options: something or nothing. This put me in a tough spot as an atheist. I didn’t want to say something caused the universe because that something would have to be immensely powerful, incredibly creative, and outside its own creation (i.e., outside time and space). That something was starting to look like God, and I did not want to say God caused the universe. Instead, I wanted to say nothing caused the universe. This is unreasonable, though.
As an atheist, I believed everything that exists is the product of blind, physical processes. I couldn’t explain where the universe came from because all I had to start with was nothing. But nothing comes from nothing. To say the universe came from nothing goes against our basic intuitions about reality. However, on Christian theism, there was more than nothing to start with. There was an uncaused cause. The Christian explanation lines up perfectly with the way the world really is.
That was the first bump. The next bump was the most difficult for me.
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What to Do When You Think a Friend Is Considering Suicide

It’s addressing a real problem. Simply, there are a lot of people who struggle with suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10–34. Almost 50,000 people die by suicide every year. As staggering as that number is, it doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the CDC, 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide in 2020, 3.2 million came up with a detailed plan, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. This is a real problem.

Over the last four years, I’ve been invited to churches, schools, and conferences all over the world to speak. What do you think my number one requested talk has been? It’s not the problem of evil, homosexuality, biblical justice, or even the existence of God. It’s suicide. More than 30% of the time, my host wants to hear about suicide. Why? Why is this issue so much more popular than all the others?
It’s addressing a real problem. Simply, there are a lot of people who struggle with suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10–34. Almost 50,000 people die by suicide every year. As staggering as that number is, it doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the CDC, 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide in 2020, 3.2 million came up with a detailed plan, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. This is a real problem.
Yet, no one’s talking about it. For several reasons, including shame, guilt, and theological issues, suicide has been pushed into the dark recesses of even our churches. In this way, it’s very similar to abortion. For the longest time, abortion was never discussed, especially in the church. Look what’s happened now that we’ve brought the issue out of the dark corners and into the light, though. Now, the issue is openly discussed, and healing can begin. The same thing can happen with suicide, too.
We need to let these kinds of issues break our hearts, and we need to move towards them with the truth of who we are according to the true story of reality, allowing compassion and love for other people to lead the way. How do we do that? Here are five simple things you can do if this issue comes up in your life or the life of someone you know.
First, start with compassion and understanding. I have never wrestled with thoughts of suicide. This doesn’t mean I can’t relate to someone who does. Start by listening to the person, seeking to understand the situation they’re in. After listening to them, have compassion on them. Love them. Let them know you’re there for them, and help however you can. Remind them they aren’t alone in this world. They might think they are, but that’s a lie.
One thing to remember: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Out of compassion, wanting to help a friend open up, you might be tempted to say something like, “You can tell me—I promise I won’t tell anyone else,” but you should never promise you’ll keep everything confidential. Sometimes, you have to ask a third party for help. More on this in a minute.
Second, be direct and honest. If you are worried about someone, express your concern. Don’t be afraid to ask directly, “Have you thought about suicide?” Using that word will not push them towards taking their own life, but it will remove any ambiguity or grey area in the conversation. Don’t use less specific language like, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” That’s a different question. After being direct, make sure you’re prepared for their answer, which is the third action point.
Third, be prepared. Know how to respond. Part of knowing how to respond is being comfortable with any answer they give. Don’t be shocked or allow yourself to become uncomfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, they’ll see that, and they might shy away from being honest.
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Living, Unique, Valuable, Unborn Human Beings

Human beings aren’t valuable because of a function they perform, how conscious they are, whether they feel pain, or any other extrinsic quality. These things come in degrees. Humanity doesn’t come in degrees.

I shocked a faculty member at the University of California while conversing with him in the middle of campus. He was defending abortion using the reasons popularly offered to justify it. He said, “It’s a decision between a woman, her doctor, and her God.” He brought up the idea that if abortion were made illegal, women would be forced into dangerous, back-alley abortions. He emphatically said, “Woman should have the right to choose.” Then I shocked him.
I agreed. I said, “Of course we shouldn’t interfere with a woman, her doctor, and her God. We shouldn’t force any woman into a dangerous, back-alley abortion.” I said, “A woman should have the right to choose…if….” “If what?” he asked. I knew this was where the conversation really started.
Often, we lose sight of the main issue in the abortion debate. The fundamental question we must ask is, “What is the unborn?” Abortion involves the killing and discarding of something that’s alive. We all know it’s alive because it’s growing. That’s the “problem” abortion seeks to address. And whether it’s right or not to intentionally take the life of this living being depends entirely upon the answer to one question: “What kind of being is it?”
Most defenses of abortion assume the unborn is not a human being. Think about it. Privacy and choice are not valid reasons to kill born human beings. This means that if the unborn is a human being just like you and me, you can’t kill her for the same reasons you can’t kill a born human being. If the unborn is not a human being, there’s no issue to debate. If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate. That’s why we have to first answer the question “What is the unborn?” To answer this, we’ll turn to embryology.
We know from embryology—the study of the earliest stages of life—that human life comes into existence when two gametes (sperm and egg) fuse to form a living zygote. The science of embryology tells us the unborn is a living, unique, human being.
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Why Does Justice Matter?

All human beings, in virtue of being human, bear God’s image, from the greatest to the least. The image of God is foundational to understanding how and why we do justice. It’s that image which creates the standard that lends to each person’s transcendent value, requiring us to treat all humans with dignity and worth. Without this standard, justice isn’t possible.

I’ve been writing a lot about justice, but why does any of it matter? Why are we having this conversation at all? Justice is a word that has often been muddied, distorted, and even disregarded. To be God’s agents of justice, we have to work through the mud and distortion and bring clarity to true justice.
Daniel Webster said, “Justice is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.” Justice is the glue that holds society together, but it’s more than glue. When we act justly, we experience the true joy of Jesus. As he said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:10–11).
As Christians, it’s paramount to understand biblical justice because what we think about justice influences almost every area of our lives. This is why I’ve been focusing on justice. The biblical concept of justice needs to be restored.
To restore justice, we need to understand a few critical concepts. The first is God’s call to justice. Justice is important to God. There are more than two thousand verses in the Bible directly related to justice. There are twice as many references to justice as to prayer, almost three times the references to love, and three times the number of references to money (which is often actually a justice issue).
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A Missing Component in Our Discussions About Doing Justice

Some common ways God reveals himself in a dynamic way are through prayer and Scripture reading, but there’s also a connection between our ethical actions (doing justice, for example) and our knowledge of God. We gain an even better understanding of God as we participate with him in his mission, a part of which is justice. We go from knowing about God to knowing God. From static to dynamic. 

A few years back, my church went through A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. That book, perhaps more than any other, taught me about who God is—his attributes and desires, his likes and dislikes, his view of his creation, including man.
That book had such a profound effect on me, I read it once a year. As good a book as it is, though, Tozer would never think his book is a substitute for living a life in relationship with God.
Here’s what I mean by that: Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing that person. We would never claim to know Abraham Lincoln after reading a few biographies about him. In the same way, we shouldn’t equate knowing God with simply gaining knowledge about him from books, church, or Bible studies.
To know someone, we must spend time with that person and participate in life with him. It’s often easy to mistake knowledge about God for knowing God. Why do I bring this up? Because the idea of knowing God has been a missing component in our discussion about doing justice.
Justice flows from the very character of God. In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—one of the German Christians who resisted Hitler—pointed out that there’s a connection between justice and our ability to know God. When we participate with God in seeking justice for the vulnerable, seeking their good, and living out biblical justice in all areas of our lives, we are, at the same time, participating with God and building our relationship with him.
In his book Pursuing Justice, Ken Wytsma uses static and dynamic art as a way to describe the difference between knowing about God and the knowledge that comes from being in a relationship with God.
A painting is static. It doesn’t move. You can learn a lot about the painter by looking at it, but you never know the painter in a personal way simply by looking at his art.
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Two Misunderstandings Christians Have About Justice

The gospel and law work in tandem, bringing people to Jesus (and ultimately salvation) and helping Christian ambassadors bring about a more just society. We need to abandon the justice vs. gospel extremes. Our focus as Christians is not “We just need to preach the gospel.” It’s also not “Social justice is the gospel.” Instead, we partner with Jesus to preach the gospel, make disciples, and teach them to obey biblical principles in all areas of life. 

There are two misunderstandings about justice that have led to confusion in the Christian community.
First, there’s often not a clear distinction between the law of God and his gospel, especially in discussions related to justice. These two aren’t the same thing. The gospel literally means “good news.” It’s the good news that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). The gospel is good news when we understand that we do not and cannot earn our salvation. The work of redemption and justification has been finished by Christ, on the cross, at Calvary.
The gospel is not the law. Many Christians misunderstand the law. Some think that when Jesus died on the cross, he did away with all our moral obligations. This not the case.
Remember, the law of God gives us our moral standard in life, including the standard of justice. Of course, Jesus is the only man who ever lived up to that standard, but—with God’s help—we still need to pursue a holy life. Peter said, “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” He then quoted the Law: “Because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16).
Think about what Jesus said in Matthew 22. A lawyer asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Notice the question is about law, not the gospel. This is really important. Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Now listen to his summary statement: “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Christians miss this here. Notice our obligation to love is not the gospel. Loving God and loving your neighbor is law.
Here’s why I bring this up: The gospel is about God’s love for us. It’s his rescue plan for sinners. The law is about our love for God and others.
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What Is True Justice?

Justice means rendering to someone what they’re due. True justice requires the existence of an objective standard. True justice flows from the character of God. That’s why anything outside a theistic system ultimately fails.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted. While our conversations have been profitable, the issue of justice has unfortunately been derailed by distractions about critical race theory.
CRT has turned into something like a piñata in many circles. We love to take turns whacking at it, hoping to see a reward tumble out. I took a whack at that piñata in an article I wrote last September. If we would stop and take a closer look, though, we’d find CRT advocates are touching a real issue. It’s an issue that only biblical justice has the answer for.
Instead of honestly acknowledging that some of the social ills CRT attempts to diagnose exist, we just take another whack. I’m tired of hitting the piñata. Instead, I want to understand what true, biblical justice is so I can offer the solution that CRT can’t.
What is justice? Justice means rendering to someone what they’re due. Keep in mind, true justice requires the existence of an objective standard. True justice flows from the character of God. That’s why anything outside a theistic system ultimately fails.
In Social Justice vs. Biblical Justice, E. Calvin Beisner says, “The biblical concept of justice is rendering impartially and proportionally to everyone his due in accord with the righteous standard of God’s moral law.”
Notice, biblical justice requires several things.
First, true justice is impartial.
Listen to how Moses instructs the judges of Israel in Deuteronomy 1:16–17: “Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen and judge righteously between a person and his fellow countryman, or the stranger who is with him. You are not to show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You are not to be afraid of any person, for the judgment is God’s.”
God’s justice puts a spotlight on those who are most vulnerable to injustice, securing for them equality in defense. An example of this today is seen as lawyers are encouraged to offer pro bono defense to clients who need it the most.
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