Monday, December 07, 2009

That Great Tree's Gift to Humanity

I watched the movie The Messenger, which tells the story of Joan of Arc. While I recognize that stylistic dramatization was utilized, and accounts were doctored to better tell the moviemaker's story, I was struck by one scene in particular and started a thought that seems profound.

The scene was of Joan's imprisonment by the English church. The apparition played by Dustin Hoffman commented of Joan's visions, questioning the interpretation of the message, accusing her of simply reading into them what she wanted; doubt whether God intended her to lead an army against the British was established.

This idea reminded me of the account of Adam and Eve. Just how perceptive have we become after partaking of the fruit?

Here is my thought: What if what we obtained from the fruit was not discriminating knowledge between good and evil, but simply the awareness of such things.

Those two partook and realized they were naked. Awareness of wrong occurred. They experienced shame from their nakedness. What if they did not acquire specific knowledge of the need for modesty? Who's to say that is evil? We impose perversion on nakedness because we associate it with sex. But baby and infants are unaware of their nakedness. If they are in Adam, would they not from conception feel that same shame?

I propose that the knowledge of good and evil we obtained is indistinguishable. The reason Adam and Eve covered themselves was because they became self aware and exposed. Covering was more an instinctual, subconscious response to the awareness of evil, now aware of evil's presence and existence, now aware - rather, fixated - on the self, and so felt a vulnerability. Exactly here is where perception and reality meet. We think we really do hold God's power of determining good and evil, by individually deeming things good or bad according to our preference, but that is an illusion. With the collection of humanity deeming things right or wrong, divorced from objectivity, the degrees of variation become deafening.

Why am I making such a fuss in dismantling sin's original effect? If we had true, objective, absolute, distinguishing knowledge of good versus evil, would we not be able to judge which doctrines are evil and destructive and which are of God and live-giving?

The way I see it, the knowledge of good and evil from that Great Tree did not make us at all like God; we just think we are like Him, lying to ourselves. The serpent told a bold-faced lie when he said that we surely wouldn't die, for we had died. We took our focused priority off God and placed it on ourselves. God was our life source; still is. Now, we turn our focus inward, toward the self, thinking erroneously that the gods we see in ourselves are sufficient for life.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that a faith in Christ that does not take this aspect into account is an inadequate faith. Are we as Christians so ineffective because we don't allow God to become our focus? We, as a whole, are human-centered Christians who see God as a means, not the end. Our eyes never leave either the self or others around us. Is not salvation defined as this: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NASB) or “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7, NASB)? Intimately knowing our God is of the utmost concern, yet we have no hunger for Him; our hunger is for what we can get from Him, still, with our focus fixed on the self. This is a lordship issue. We dismiss the reality of Jesus' lordship, thinking it is optional or insignificant facet of the faith compared to the worth of our comfort and control.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Forget the self, and what you perceive is a need, and forsake your hunger for things, people, anything that is not the Triune God. Rest completely in the person of God, and see if you come away in want. Make Him Lord. Dare not dismiss the thought that God may be more significant inherently than yourself, for this surely seems to be what it is all about.

Monday, October 05, 2009


So there's a great little site found here. It outlines the various views of election. Most have heard of Calvinism and Arminianism. The debate is actually a bit more extensive, with various Calvinistic positions. I'm going to highlight some of the most adopted positions.

But first I think it is important to say a little bit about why I think this issue is important. The term "election" appears all over the New Testament. It refers to those who will attain salvation. Grasping a better understanding on what this involves (God's role, the individual's role, etc.) will strengthen the witness of the Church, as assurance of one's salvation has a motivating effect. Also, knowing God's intent for saving people, and why we even find ourselves in this situation, can speak to God's character, and the purpose for creation and existence and offer a pretty coherent explanation for why Christian experience is so "diverse" in its presentation.

So let's get to it.

Arminian View:
  1. God creates
  2. God permits the Fall of humanity
  3. God provides salvation for all
  4. God calls all to salvation
  5. God elects those who believe (contingent on the person's choice
Now there is a condition to God's provided salvation: any who choose to believe in the crucified Christ as Lord and Savior are saved... This begs the question, was Charles Finney right in saying one can will to desire, thus seek, God apart from the Lord revealing Himself to the person (See the concluding remarks on the issue of free will below for my answer to this)?

The distinguishing aspect of Arminianism lies in the thought that the opportunity of salvation for any given person is contingent on that person's will to choose God and his gift of grace (salvation). Said differently, the human controls his or her own fate, since the determining factor is solely in his or her power.

Now the Scriptures have certain passages that do not mesh well with this position. Romans 9-11 is one such passage. Arminianists interpret these chapters regarding the Elect and God's purposes for it by defining election in a unique way. They see Romans 9-11 as having a distinction between election to salvation and election to service or function. So when Esau is hated, and his fate determined even before being born or doing good or bad, God's lack of election is for Esau's function/service, having no factor on his salvation. They would still posit that Esau (let's avoid the issue of pre-Jesus humans and the weird question of how they relate to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and use Esau as a type, one way to describe one's role/characteristic/etc.) could choose salvation even though he was not elect. Election is an issue of service to God. I will come back to this interpretation later.

Supralapsarian View -
  1. God elects some, reprobates the rest
  2. God creates
  3. God permits the Fall
  4. God provides salvation for the elect
  5. God calls the elect to salvation
Notice the Elect are chosen before creation occurred. Why? To what purpose does this serve? I believe this act best illustrates God's authority and majesty, establishing His rightful Sovereign choice to save whomever He pleases. The logical questions such a statement arouse are, "Why should/must God have to decide? Is there anything at stake if God does not make the choice? If He does not make the choice, but rather the human does, is there a challenge to God's authority?"

Infralapsarian View:
  1. God creates
  2. God permits the Fall
  3. God elects some, passes over the rest
  4. God provides salvation for the elect
  5. God calls the elect to salvation
The difference between Infra- and Supra- positions is over the sequence of events. The Infralapsarian position does not see a need in having God choose to save before the Fall, but rather the election is a response or reaction to the Fall. Supralapsarianism is unique in that God begins with this act, highlighting His Sovereign Authority. One Arminian attempt at reconciling the Supra- position's biblical accuracy with their need to maintain human authority is to say that God's early election is based on His foresight of their choice to choose. Here we must come back to the Esau issue. What is most valued is the idea of human autonomy, apart from God's influence. I cannot read Romans 9-11 as election to service, divorced from impacting salvation, just as I cannot justify saying that God foreknew the person's choice, thus electing them based on the human's decision. The phrasing makes it clear: "for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, NOT BECAUSE OF WORKS but because of Him who calls...I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION" (Romans 9:11, 15 emphasis mine). Now I edited out some text, but I did not change the pericope's meaning; this is all a single thought. The purpose that God chose Jacob and not Esau was to ensure His choice was the decisive factor, not works, in whom He would have mercy/compassion on and whom He wouldn't (all need mercy for all are depraved, just not all will be shown mercy/compassion). This text makes it clear that human merit has little place in this matter of election (shall we just define the "elect" as those God purposes to have mercy/compassion on?).

The Issue of Free Will (i.e. Human Agency)
We could benefit from addressing God's permitting of Evil (The Fall). We say that God has no hint of evil, and rightly so. The existence of evil, however, must have an origin. If it did not come from God, from where did it? The most adopted and logical explanation is found in the idea of free will. If created beings, made perfect and reflective of a sovereign God, free and perfect in His own right, is given the choice to rebel or remain obedient, God would not be the author of Evil, but rather the creature would be, if they so chose to rebel. This meshes very well with the Arminian position because it speaks to the power given to the person. It is a bit more messy in trying to fit it with the Supra- position; but in my opinion it is possible.

Now I claim one is a fool who denies the reality of humans having choice. We are free to choose from varying options. So the tension of choosing God and God electing one for salvation (regardless if the person wishes for the contrary) needs to be addressed. This is the debate over Theodore Beza's "Irresistible Grace" (from TULIP). This concept concerns itself with the notion that one does not have a free will if in fact God's grace is irresistible. If one cannot resist it, one does not have a choice. God's will trumps that of the human's. If this happens, then, they [Arminians] argue that God must be responsible for the creation of Evil. If God forces one's hand toward good, then naturally, those He does not force toward good will veer toward evil by default, essentially making God responsible for evil by neglecting. They argue that since God cannot be evil and He would have to be if He was responsible for its creation, then the Supra- position cannot be accurate.

Allow me to give an alternative interpretation. Can God permit one of His creature's to have an independent will, apart from the mandate of God's Sovereignty? Our experience indeed seems to suggest just that, where we are not magically pulled one way toward God as if there were an invisible string. Can God present a message of love and hope through Christian representatives to a person, one with the choice to choose it or not? Again, our experience seems to suggest so. We see some that immediately take the message with rejoicing; others take a while to warm to the message, sometimes over decades; still others never embrace the message. If the message is eventually accepted, it is done so because it would seem foolish to not. If it is rejected, it is because the person chose so.

That is all from the perspective of the recipient. Now consider the Presenter's perspective (given that God usually uses those whom have embraced the message to some degree, the ultimate source of the message, the author of it, is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit). God impresses on the recipient a message that illustrates the goodness of the Source. If God is infinitely great, and this is reflected in the message, then there should be an irresistible nature to the message of grace. How, then, can one choose not to embrace God, for surely there are those who do not? There are three possible explanations: God is, then, not infinitely great, or the message was inadequately presented, or He indeed did have an electing purpose and did not choose this particular person. I believe the two last options occur often, with an inadequate presentation explaining why some take a while to embrace the message; the first is just ludicrous. Throughout this entire time, the choice is the person's, yet God maintains His choice. God is not frustrated or thwarted by one's slow acceptance of His grace, given He elects them and they do not respond immediately. He understands that His human ambassadors are broken and inadequate to represent Him. He is no less glorious, but more so for that very reason (of using a handicap of depraved humanity to propagate His gospel). And God cannot be held responsible for His infinite greatness and irresistibility. It is His choice to sufficiently display that to some. I equate it to a boy who, having several battery-operated toys, chooses to install some with batteries but not others. Is the boy evil for neglecting some toys over others? Do the toys have an inherent worth or right equal to that of the boy? God, in not choosing someone, is not doing anything evil. The evilness (or rather, depravation of source) cannot be rightly transferred to Him but must remain on the human (that is their state according to their own choice, say to deny their need for batteries); the toy's immobility remains its own shortcoming, not the boy's. Likewise it is the human who responds according to his or her will whether they choose God (or neglect their need for grace). The reality, then, appears that decisions over salvation are a collaboration of wills, where God wills some to salvation, and because of His irresistible nature, they respond independently with acceptance; those not elected are left to their own will, and independently reject God (c.f. Romans 3:10-18).

Yet, the original sin needs to be examined. Adam and Eve were perfect creatures, without fault. God saw them as "very good" and He would not say such a thing if there was any hint of deficiency in their nature. I think the phrasing provided by the website is most useful; God permitted the Fall. He did not cause it; He did not force their hand, but offered opportunity to rebel, a quite needed option for free will to exist lest they truly be automatons. The existence of evil in the human nature resulted from the will of humans, not God.

The existence of evil originally, in the serpent, whom we identify as Satan, is another matter. I think it is most relevant to this discussion to ask "how did Satan happen to become evil?" And if he is one and the same as Lucifer, the fallen angel, how could a creature quite different from that of humans fall from grace, for they are described as not having a free will, but restrained to do the bidding of their Master?

I think one needs to start with the assumption that God is, in fact, terribly awesome, completely sovereign and accountable to no one. He can do as He pleases, do what He pleases, only bound by His own nature, fully perfect and good. What if God, desiring to display His infinite greatness, conspired a plan to convey His glorious Holiness, set apart completely from anything that can ever be? What if the only way to display this was by contrasting it to something altogether different? He could create a perfect creature, similar in nature to Himself but not equal, thus capable of corruption. And in His wisdom, He could grant volition to that creature, opening opportunity for rebellion. I believe this is how it occurred. God permitted Lucifer to fall from grace, to have him challenge God for the right to reign, in a sense setting up a competition over worthiness.

Would it not, then, be completely logical to conclude that the supralapsarian position most aligns with this scenario? God elects before everything else occurs, because He anticipates that their choice for God will adequately display His worthiness, as He simply has to reveal glimpses of His nature to the elect and they respond. His Glory is displayed in their choice; His original intent is accomplished. His wisdom is proven in His plan (Ephesians 3:10). And what God most desires, that of having Himself known, considers it right (i.e. just, or righteous even... the opposite of evil) to have Himself displayed in contrast to the corruption and depravity of humanity and angelic rebellion. A sovereign God, who has the authority to determine right from wrong, must be trusted as more capable of discerning righteousness over a depraved human (see my next post That Great Tree's Gift to Humanity). All other views fall drastically short in elevating God as most glorious and most sovereign. Holding such positions is to deny God His nature, thinking humanity, and its eternal security more important than it is, mainly greater than God's worth being manifested. Is this human-centeredness not a product of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Epistle to the True Church

Michael, a teacher of the Scriptures regarding the true Faith in Jesus of Nazareth; to the Church in America, the true sheep who are capable of hearing the voice of our Good Shepherd and flock to Him but flee from strange voices (John 10:4-5), greetings in Christ Jesus, our LORD – the only Sovereign authority in our lives pertaining to spiritual things – and grace and peace be upon you in this ever darkening hour.

I write to you this day for I see the Scripture unfolding all around me and want to encourage you to take seriously the call to follow our God down the path of godliness. Remember Jesus’ own words and be concerned: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7:13-14). I grew up and became a believer in the mid to late nineties. I only experienced Church in the context of a seeker-sensitive orientation. My friends, I am becoming more convinced by the day that this drive to fashion our faith in an attractive way is grossly missing the mark, for it shows that those who adopt such practices have no faith in the power of the Gospel to save. Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” and in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

When we put on rock shows for Jesus for a Sunday gathering, we appeal more to the ways of Man than we do the ways of God. And when this fatal error is made, I fear it proves that most churches do not know the God they claim to serve. Rather, they have fashioned an image of God that is altogether like their depraved selves, taking upon their lips the statutes of God and twisting the Holy Word for their purposes. If you are truly of the elect, I trust you sense the error of these ways lest you are deceived beyond rescue. Read Psalm 50 and tremble in repentance lest you be torn to pieces one day. Such goats think you serve God, but they serve their idol of God, a god most concerned with the salvation of mankind. Thinking the faith needs to be attractive to a lost and blind world, they make their faith man-pleasing. They prove they have no concept of the Spirit of God as essential for the revealing of truth (John 16:13). What about you, do you lack the Spirit yourselves? Pray as King David did in the Psalm 51, especially verse 11: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” I, of course, have to ask whether you have the Spirit because so many claim they do but show know fruit of it. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is first and foremost Love – love for God with all your being (Gal 5:22; Deut 6:5).

Because of the ways in which you, the Church have conducted yourselves, I am deeply concerned that you are ignorant of the vital doctrine of regeneration. This is in part that I perceive many to be in the Church are either false teachers, deceived goats perfectly satisfied with any garbage to eat, or deceived sheep not knowing any better for they have not heard the voice of the Shepherd yet to lead them to greener pastures. Please read the Word! Romans 8 speaks of the distinction between true saints and the lost. The mindset (“set your mind”) spoken of is so much more than an intellectual, cognitive bent toward the things of God. In the Greek, this word has a connotation of the entire self including thoughts, attitudes, emotions, will… Those that walk according to the Spirit have a radically different orientation toward the things of God. Fellow sheep, if you are dissatisfied with what comes from your pulpit, and feel malnourished, start now: pick up your Bibles and enjoy the pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). Meditate day and night on the richness of His Glory that is found on those pages, working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Perhaps then, as by hearing the Word you believe, passages like 2 Cor 3:18 and 2 Peter 1:3-10 will come to life to you and you will feel compelled to bear the worthwhile burden of remaining rooted to Christ, proving that you are being regenerated, “making your call and election sure.” This sacrifice to endure is our joy and strength, for those who have the Spirit and count all things loss (excrement, really) compared to knowing Christ “and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10).

Beloved Brethren, do not be so deceived to think the wrath of God is satisfied for all time by Christ on the Cross. Of course, Jesus’ sacrifice earns Him the right to possess all authority in Heaven and on earth. He will rightly intercede on behalf of those who place their trust in Him (Hebrews 7:25). I warn against the impending wrath because it is foolishness to find security in Christ against the wrath to come when in fact many of you are indeed not “in Christ” (Romans 8:1). You need look no farther than the Revelation of Jesus Christ to see that there are stern warnings to the churches of their lack of diligence and wisdom and will be outside Christ’s protection lest they “be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:19).

As far as those who contend for the true faith, and I trust you know who you are: be ever diligent in keeping centered to the proper expression of our faith. Yes, speak out against false teachers, willing to go to the grave for the integrity of the Faith. But I urge you, do not become embittered and resentful for the state of the Church and of those who tarnish the Name of God (for honestly, who can overstep the Sovereign and thwart His intentions with their wickedness?). Above all else, clothe yourselves in love, finding the balance of speaking truth and loving enemies. I am finding it easiest to bear with great patience these vessels of wrath (Romans 9:22) by taking the yoke Jesus offers; Love God. Share with the world how much you treasure His infinite worth, for He is, apart from what He has done for us, greatly majestic and perfect in glory. What benefit we have (salvation to those who believe) is icing on the cake. When we love Him with our whole being, we will be good stewards of the faith allotted to us, and the world will see Him. This will also prevent us from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3), where we recall from how deep Christ is pulling us up from our depravity in light of His benevolence.

There is a heaviness in the air, Beloved, and I pray earnestly that Christ return soon to take those who are prepared (Matt 25:1-13). Are you prepared? Are you watchful for the return of our Lord? I finish writing this letter during Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, the Coronation of the Messiah, when He likely will return (for He fulfilled so many of the Jewish Feasts on His first coming on their actual observances). Of course, I speculate and have no way of knowing. But again I beg you: prepare yourselves by turning to God. Repent and believe the gospel since His Kingdom has come and will be fully realized when He returns in glory.

I fear those who are not ready for His return may be left to endure the tribulation, without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask God to spare you this ordeal by showing you mercy and grace. And so I end with the Word from the apostle Peter:

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:4-18)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fear as Motivator for Selfless Devotion to God

I watched the video and read the comments in response and came up with this conclusion: You are a FOOL. Period. WE ALL are more depraved than we know. But what I was actually going to say is that you are a fool if you do not test Nate Pfeil's message in Scripture, regardless of what side you take. He quotes Scripture throughout - and everything he says is based on Scripture... Read the Book! Research where in the Word he gets his position from. If you think you have a contrary position to what he said, find what Scripture you base it on... and here's the KEY: view your rebuttal Scripture through the lens of whether it reveals the Sovereign Glory of God and not what sits well with your heart (your heart is full of deceit - Jer 17:9). We have this AMAZING book to be our teacher of truth. DO NOT TRUST what notions you feel about God to be Gospel truth but what is in the Word. Do not be one who hardens his or her heart to the GRACE assured in the video just because you feel offended and think his...method unloving, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Jesus was not "loving" in the sense He was to the poor in spirit when He railed on the religious Pharisees... Jesus was ruthlessly hard on them. Yet many condemn Nate's approach as not reflective of Christ's ways... My heart is heavy first because I do all I and Nate speak against here too and need to repent; but also for the games we play in trying to prove how right or wrong the professed Word of God is from one another when it clearly magnifies the Lord and not man, the essential measure rod we all should apply... I fear you don't find messages like Nate's pleasing because it is the stench of death to you (2 Cor 2:15-16). I find it most pleasing because He represents the God I see in His Word, one obsessed with His Glory (for good reason) more than the well-being of a perverse people. I'm tired of it being about us. He is so much more exciting than anything I can offer.

Then my friend commented and asked:
This fellow and Washer have caused me to wonder if fear of damnation is enough to motive a person to truly follow God. How can a desire to preserve your soul from pain turn into the selfless devotion to God that is at the heart of Christianity?

I also disagree with your comment about God being obsessed with his glory. Philippians 2 seems to
suggest that God glorified Christ because of his humility and concern for "the well-being of a perverse people." Obviously, we are meant to learn that concern for our own well-being is ungodly but God's glory seems to be enhanced by the fact that he is willing to give it up for us.

Then I responded:

If a 16-yr-old just got her license to drive and her dad, at a party, hands her the keys to a brand new Bugatti Veyron, who will get the glory? Her or the dad? Who did the more impressive act? I use this as illustrastion because the HUMBLE act of making propitiation for an utterly undeserving people, and the cost of the act (the full wrath of God being poured out on His perfect, sinless Son) point to how great He is; the method is just that, not purpose.

That's just the human argument. Look at Scripture: Romans 3:21-26 "to demonstrate His righteousness"; 9:22-23, Psalm 50:15-23, Isa 48:9-11. Is God's glory an after-thought to His loving "giv[ing up] for us"?

As far as fear by enough to motivate "a person to truly follow God," consider this: God's ultimate purpose in creating and restoring Creation is to make His internal glories (at the time) external, specifically on the cross - research (supra)lapsarianism (sp?). If God made us with the intent for His Glories to be known, and He uses fear to motivate us to get into the Book to find out who He truly is, what harm has occurred, and who is the clay to tell the Potter what is just and right (Romans 9, see end of Job too)? This answers your question: the fear of damnation leads to the desire to preserve your soul, which in turn makes you go to the Book to find out how to truly follow God; the Book teaches you who God is (when you, with contrite spirit take off the man-centered glassed that have distorted the Word before) and when you truly know Him, you know His worth and you naturally devote yourself to Him selflessly, for He is worth it!

Add Isaiah 53:10 to prove God is obsessed with His glory. Why else would the Father be PLEASED to CRUSH HIM [Jesus], His only begotten Son?! The display on the cross was intentional; it displays the glory of God more than anything! If you don't see that you are blind, and in danger of falling in the ditch of man-pleasing... God reveal this to your sheep!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Man-Pleasing Gospel

Is it possible that, in our drive to share our Christian faith with the world, by thinking critically through our message, taking into consideration posture and presentation, we have only adjusted and adapted the message as to lose its original content?

Are we not more concerned with pleasing Man (humanity) than God when we compromise the gospel to make it more attractive to the masses?

Consider how infrequently we take into consideration these Scripture truths concerning Kingdom exclusivity and difficulty:

Matthew 7:13-14:

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Matthew 7:21-23:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"

Matthew 10:32-39:

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. . But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 13:10-16:

And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,


But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

Matthew 13:47-50

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Matthew 15:7-14

"You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, "Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

Matthew 16:24-28:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Matthew 19:16-26:

And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Then he said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

The overwhelming sense I get is that passages like this are ignored because they are too difficult to assimilate with the false gospel that has morphed and/or sifted into the sub-conscience of Christendom. Somehow (probably Satan speaking through his mouthpieces, the false teachers (Matt 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:3), at some time, we were fed the lie that in order to be effective for the Kingdom of God, we have to persuade all people into thinking God and His ways are beneficial to the pursued.

When that [pragmatic, beneficial character of God being able to meet the selfish perceived wants/needs as an acceptable presentation of the gospel] is our preconception, our end becomes to manipulate the minds of men by distorting the image of God to fit the perceived attractiveness of God to the manipulated/deceived. This is making God something He is not. It makes Him small and controllable. Rather, it simply becomes an idol, and all who associate with it become idol worshippers.

Our end should be not to compromise the presentation of God to make Christianity inclusive and alluring, but to magnify the Lord, proclaiming His [Christ Jesus'] worth and glory. The Sheep ("brothers of Mine") will then be fed and the Church will not continue to gather more and more goats into its flock (Matt 25:31-46). The Sheep will be fed because the Church will finally be doing as it is meant to, and the worth of our inheritance - our hope and strength - which is Jesus (because He is Lord and worthy to judge the living and the dead - to reign over creation because He is infinitely great) will be realized and will empower the saints to boldness.

The Man-pleasing gospel and the "Church" which presents it needs to be exposed by the Light. Repent all who are tickled by such notions of the Faith, that God may graciously have mercy on the humble (Isaiah 30:9-18). When they don't, true saints, stand firm and unashamedly on the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) - not this man-pleasing rubbish - and proclaim it on the rooftops till you are silenced by death from persecutors or Christ comes in Glory once more, and all will be on bended knee (Philippians 2:10).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Final Thoughts on Persecution

It's been a while since I wrote on this. Any who read it probably got the sense that I was being quite intense. That's accurate. I was also being reactionary. I get the overwhelming sense that the Christian milieu these days think we are at a time of rest. I hate this notion. I believe we are in the end times, and it started when Jesus came to earth. End times are not for resting. Rest is connected with apathy, and we as the Church cannot afford to be complacent when we have the greatest news we will ever hear and we aren't sharing it with everyone. All because we think it's a resting season.

I believe in seasons. I will even concede that there is a season of rest, and a season for persecution. I am not getting stones thrown at me currently, or fired for my faith, so it's probably safe to say I, personally, am in a season of rest (from persecution).

We are never to rest from proclaiming the worth of God. There is no greater purpose for a Christian. And it will be for that reason that persecution will be, or at least should be, visible in the church throughout these end times. Collectively, we all will not experience persecution or tolerance together. We experience our own seasons as we live out our own faith and because we are not all on the same page, waging battle against the same evil power at the same time, some will find the faith journey as gruesome one moment, and rewarding and victorious the next.

My roommate also mentioned the issue of the Tribulation, where everything is turned up 50 degrees in intensity. I think it goes without saying, because political and economical powers of oppression will be inescapable that persecution will be rampant and unavoidable (unless you recant or compromise the true faith). I'm just saying we should not fear persecution, or think it is optional, or that the integrity of our witness, as adamantly compelled to proclaim Christ as worthy of all glory and praise, is open to debate and dilution.

A diluted faith will not bring about persecution for it does not offend. Do not be afraid of fighting the good fight, or running the race well. The reward is Christ. He is our prize and there is none greater, especially not any rest we might experience if we compromise.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Sedated Life

I awoke around 4:30 this morning, and it seems God speaks most clearly out of a deep sleep.

I had all these thoughts about life. We buy these beautiful, shiny cars only to have them rust and break down. We save up and buy these homes only to have their foundations crack. We adopt these dogs and cats to cut through the tension of our families, distracting us from truly connecting. We spend millions of dollars to look really good and beautiful, to boost our sex appeal only to grow old and wrinkly. We sit in front of our TVs and computers, hours upon end, to pass the time. Or we define ourselves by what we do, thinking our career gives us worth. We fill our lives with the things that distract, not realizing that we are really sedating ourselves. We have a dozen different IVs inserted to keep us hazy and numb, as to avoid the lurking question we all dread. Don't get me wrong, those sedatives make us free great, even euphoric at times, but they are toxic to our souls because they draw us away from asking the question,

"How do I stand with my Maker?"

I had a friend from my childhood Church, one from the youth group, a Pastor's kid, who took his life on Monday. I have a former co-worker who has continually expressed self-harming and suicidal thoughts and actions for the past few months. They have reminded me of how desperate and hopeless this world can become. I think if you get to a place where you consider taking your own life, the things this world offer no longer cut it. They may have really tried to attain those things that make us satisfied, but God did not deal them that hand. Either way, all our fates are the same. We are all going to die; it’s just a matter of time and whether we rush it.

That does not change the uncertainty that lurks in all our hearts and minds. When all is said in done, and those treasures we worshipped cannot go with us past the grave, what hope do we have? None has lived as they should. None walk this earth without gravely insulting God by adopting a lifestyle of perversion and sin. There is a real punishment for our failure to measure up to God’s standard. So what now? Continue to sedate and numb ourselves or get real and face our God now? Our post-life options are illusion… we will have to take account for how we’ve lived before God. The Gospel of the Kingdom and its reality to transform our depraved lives into new ones is the answer.

The Sedated Life cannot remain intact when collided by the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of the Kingdom exposes those toxic sedatives as the poisons they are. The sedated life is not life but death. Christ come to Earth and crucified then arisen, conquering death and offering life to those who believe in Him and follow Him… That is life. That is my hope. Faith in Christ lived out by the Spirit’s help. It’s time to wake up and join the Kingdom.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Address to new blog

Here is the location to my new blog, the one that deals with the faith in reader-friendly terms (unlike my digestive rants as found on this site).

Enjoy and please post questions, comments, rebuttals, etc.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm Changing Things

I've gotten some feedback on my blog. I think it best to change the concept and stated purpose of this blog. Now I frame it not as a means to "get on the same page" but to digest and make sense of what goes on in my head. Honestly, the input I get is hard to make sense of, and as it processes in my head, it often comes out in crazy ways. Everything I write is through the lens of my mind. I do not have fully the mind of Christ yet, but I feel I'm getting close. Also, where I am spiritually is not where others are. My writings are inappropriate for those that are not where I am. That is why this sight will change its purpose to reflect it is for my sanity, sorting out the thoughts and theology I come across in my studies.

I am starting another blog to address the Gospel that is more appropriate for others. I hope this improves the effectiveness of sharing my faith without confusing or scaring the hell out of people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You See Sawdust, I See the Forest

I read again today the words of Jesus regarding judging others (how we shouldn't). In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus said that there is a log-sized problem plaguing me, the listener of his teaching, and I am to deal with it before pointing out the speck in a brother's eye. Most just take this as a lesson to not be a hypocrite by never dealing with your own crap but just criticize others. I think that's fair, but what then. What if one actually removes the log? We never are satisfied whether the procedure was done or not, but quick to throw out the hypocrite line if rebuke or correction occurs. Was it Jesus' intent by saying this that we are to be passive in our faith and let things slide amongst one another because we always have more planks to remove? Is the journey really supposed to be that isolated?

And what exactly is the log? I had the thought today that perhaps the log Jesus was referring to was our inclination to inaccurately interpret Scripture, producing and accepting unsound doctrine. We assume quickly that it is a fault or sin that must be remedied. Does not our failure to understand the Word act the same way to blind us?

I feel like I've been through the process. I've removed my log of false teaching from my eye; I've been given clear vision to see the specks in others' eyes. Is it arrogant or self-righteous of me to rebuke/reprove others if the task Jesus required was accomplished? Is it fair to say that task is impossible to finish this side of Heaven if we are given the Holy Spirit to lead/empower us toward godliness (2 Peter 1:3)? Are we, as a Christian whole, copping out on our duty to correct and rebuke and teach these days (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

My roommate thinks I am taking things too far by saying Christians should expect persecution to occur if they're doing it right (2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 5:10-12; 10:22). It's more complex than that: he thinks it's dangerous to not consider Scripture regarding persecution in context, and understanding that what was said on the matter was for then and therefore not automatically transferrable to our time. Where persecution is a possibility, in his mind, it is not a guarantee since religious tolerance is greater these days (I am running the risk of botching his position by stating things in my own words and not his... I feel his general thought process was decently presented to suit my purposes).

I whole-heartedly disagree for reasons I will get to. I hadn't the time to share my reasons with him this morning, but what fuels my position is the underlining concern over false doctrine I see prevalent in the Christian milieu that I cannot speak on my roommate's behalf whether he holds the same level of concern I do. Mainly, I see the gospel as diluted if not distorted, and the implications are that what is presented to the world is tolerable and non-offensive; the problem being that it is not the true gospel, that which is pleasing and desired by God to be proclaimed to the world. So, to contextualize Scripture on persecution as unlikely for our time and culture, I think is grave if what we assume is an okay practice of Christianity is likely a false gospel that poses no threat to the world.

I believe the same implications that the first Christians faced regarding persecutions when proclaiming the gospel is true of our time and culture, if we simply preach the true gospel as they did.

So what has changed? How is the contemporary understanding of the gospel diluted if not downright distorted?

Ask 100 Christians what the gospel is and 97 of them will tell you that you are a sinner, that Hell is what you deserve, but God sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins if you would just accept Him as God and Savior, resulting in salvation and relationship with Him.

That's not the gospel. To steal from Piper, GOD IS THE GOSPEL! We must start with God. To understand who God is, that is vital. God is the source of all greatness. He is self-sustaining and in need of nothing from us (Psalm 50:12-15). He doesn't need our acceptance of Him to be God. The very fact that He made himself available to us is the Gospel, because by granting us access, the KINGDOM of God is now upon us, for He has established a new world order, where the lost and depraved (us) can now live differently, as God pours Himself out in service and love for us. Yes, Jesus died for our sins, but the condition of our pardon is that we believe Jesus is the visible image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15), that by identifying with Him and his new order, we are freed of our old nature to proclaim His glory. Proclaiming His Glory is God's ultimate concern and purpose for creation, as it is the means by which His authority to reign will be proved (Lucifer challenged that authority, wanting it for himself). But more so because there is nothing greater to be known or to strive for than God, since is essence and nature is perfect goodness, perfect love, perfect worthiness. To know God is salvation. It is who He is. That is the Gospel... God! If you focus solely on the benefits one can reap, you pervert the greatest truth ever known into a philosophy of man (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Col 2:8), and God will not honor that. He wants to be known and proclaimed and credited as all glorious and worthy of all praise (Rev 5:9-14), for He is and there is no greater activity in existence than to do such, simply because He is that great.

Jesus said to repent for the Kingdom is at hand and to receive this gospel (Mark 1:15). He also said that the world will hate those that proclaim the Kingdom, but they will be blessed (Matt 4:10-12; 10:22). Paul proclaimed Christ glorified and was persecuted for it and told his protege to expect it (2 Timothy 3:12). The evil world does not want a God that demands recognition and submission. That is why they will hate and persecute us, if only we will stand for the true gospel.

If I'm wrong, make sure you remove your log before pointing it out. If you think your false gospel and doctrine small bananas (sawdust), remember that the eye is small and it doesn't take much to hinder one's vision of the truth.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Could this all be really about God and not us?

My pastor Kevin gave a confession and challenge to us in light of the partaking of the elements of remembrance (Communion)… God asked him whether he really believed it was all about him.  Was that not God begging the question whether we live this Christian life in light of what God can do for us? Should we not be more concerned about God himself?  He is, after all, a pretty big deal (I don't think anything could get bigger!)  

God gave me this idea to describe our problem.  Imagine a village, with no significant technological advancements.  The son of the chief leader ventures out into the wilderness to become a man and prepare for leadership.  While out, he stumbles upon the wreckage of a plane.  He is both afraid and intrigued by this lifeless metal bird.  Among the things found on the plane is a textbook of anatomy and medicine.  He pours over the images, and diagrams, fascinated and deciding to devote his life to the study of medicine, for his tribe. 

After returning, he begins to study the similarities of the human mechanism with that of the animals they hunt.   His knowledge and understanding grow, but he is far from being an expert.  One day, a valuable laborer for the tribe had an accident falling out of a tree when gathering food.  He broke his leg, and the son of the Chief, now respected for his skills of "healing", resets his leg and administers a splint for his recovery.  The leg was not set perfectly, however, and the laborer forever had a limp as a result, constantly in pain and unable to carry heavy loads. 

One day, the village is greeted by a strange traveler, in search of his missing father, an altruistic doctor who flew to this remote land to offer his services of medicine to people of the land.  The doctor’s son followed in his footsteps, becoming a doctor.  He even was somewhat knowledgeable of the language of the land, as he treated other tribes for the last couple years.  After some time, they were able to communicate and the chief’s son now could converse with the doctor on the material he had from his father’s books.  The doctor was able to speak volumes more wisdom into the technique and complexities of medicine and surgery that the chief's son couldn’t have known apart from knowing, in a sense, the author behind the knowledge. 

Is this not like us, having little ability to discover the depths of our God and his purposes for the Christian Church and life without having God himself pour his vast wisdom over us?  We have the Holy Scriptures, but apart from his empowering, we are greatly susceptible to read over the Bible with what we know as the discerning lens.  Our self-centeredness distorts our understanding of the material and our practice of this faith walk.  We think it is about us, and frame everything of this great revelation (called the Bible) in terms of how we should benefit, how it should impact us (confession: I am tired of hearing God desires for us to be saved and that He wants relationship mostly because in the eyes of the "un-reached" and some Christians too, those offers are not enticing in our culture... we can't imagine what we'd need saving from and relationships suck, even with God because we suck, so a relationship with God is no different than any other relationship) and we neglect to ever truly live out this life as the Author intended it, because we are separated from the Author.  It is only when the Author shows up and communicates with us that we see that God has so much more for us, and has communicated already through the text of what that is, but the untrained student, blinded by his or her perspective, misses that message because (s)he has not yet been discipled by the author.  

I sense that writing what I did can come across as arrogant, as if I hold the true answer and other Christians have just had it wrong the whole time.  I am in no place to claim superior wisdom.  In fact, all I know of God is because He reveals it to me, allowing me to understand His ways though I'm so entrenched in my own ways, as if I did anything to learn the things I know now.  I think it is in John that describes how the world can know those hard after God:  they obey Jesus' words.  I suck at that.  And the fruit of the Spirit is lacking in me often... So I really feel unqualified to boast, even if it is in what Christ has done for me.  I need the Body, the Church, to help me out with seeming credible.  Perhaps I feel like I know so much, because I do, but in order for God to keep my pride in check, He keeps me messed up.  Perhaps when the whole Church worships in authentic praise together to a glorious God, all He really wants of us (that and taking that knowledge to those that haven't heard yet) will be fulfilled, and things won't seem so awfully hopeless.

I know I sure feel no more alive than when I'm prostrate or paralyzed by the awe He evokes in me when I submit to His wholeness.  What is He waiting for to get everyone involved?  When will He make us all of one accord?

Monday, June 22, 2009


I was sitting in Church, listening to the sermon, and again, I found myself disagreeing with some of what was said... not so much as a refutation but a desire for perspective to change.  And now, I'm sitting in the Library at Den Sem, reading a book on discipleship.  I was reminded of the peace God gave me yesterday of the mess it seems the Church is in.  Do we, as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ get things wrong?  Of course.  Is God frustrated with our lack of progress?  That is a more difficult question.  And herein lies a big difference between certain Christians: I presuppose that God is sovereign over all activity within the Created Realm... there is no activity or direction taken that is not authorized by God to suit His purpose.  Some do not adopt this position honestly when they hold strong convictions that Humanity has Free Will.  I recently read that Charles Finney, an American Revivalist of the 1800's, believed that we pursued God apart from any prompting on His part, and then God responded when we showed a commitment to Him.  That astounds me!  I see no biblical support for that position.  And yet, I feel that sentiment, that God waits for us to act before He moves in our lives powerfully, is taught and accepted still.  My frustration and discouragement yesterday was in light of this issue.  

Why is it that so many are just missing some of the vastly significant and powerful spiritual truths that are so vital for my passion for the faith?  

God answered that question both in prayer in the service, and through reading yesterday afternoon and today.  More or less, God asked me (isn't it funny how he asks us questions to respond, that we might have to engage all the more?... sorry - tangent) whether it took me no time or not to get where I was today.  Had I not experienced spiritual growth throughout the years that each prepared me for the next, that I might be exactly where I am at exactly this moment in time?  It was as if a lightbulb went off and I was assured.  Yeah, it is really frustrating to not have your pastors preaching the Glory of God and the significance of Christ's version of the Gospel (Kingdom come) vs. our own false gospel of salvation from Hell as if that was most important, our selfish experience.  But that frustration is worth it if God has a role for me to be a significant part of the Body for teaching and correction.  And the depth of His wisdom, that He may use us, a messed up and misguided people, centered on ourselves, is amazing to me; He will use us in all our depravity to show all how worthy of praise He is to sit on the throne and reign with authority over all creation. 

A final thought on this is that patience is important but not excuse for passivity.  I could just lie down to the circumstances of our collective lostness, saying "oh well, God will bring them around eventually to a more empowered knowledge of Himself."  The problem with that is that God would not have brought me to the place I am if He did not want me to share it with the Body, for edification and growth.  As I progressed gradually, through flawed teaching over the years, so Christ will use my obedience to the measure of faith given me to impact and teach others.  Is this not Christ's desire for us, that we may make disciples (those being taught in the faith)?  The closer God get all of us to a fuller, truer knowledge of Himself, the sooner we all will exponentially increase our effectiveness for the Kingdom, the sooner He will return because the world will actually start to hate once more what His chosen does to there comfort in sin, once more convicted and unnerved.  

May His Kingdom come to Earth as it is in Heaven, where Humanity joins the heavenly hosts in saying, 
"You are worthy to take the scroll 
      and to open its seals, 
   because you were slain, 
      and with your blood you purchased men for God 
      from every tribe and language and people and nation. 
 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, 
      and they will reign on the earth...
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, 
   to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength 
   and honor and glory and praise!...
 "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb 
   be praise and honor and glory and power, 
         for ever and ever!" (Revelation 5:9-10, 12-13)

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Conversion and Transformation

I'm reading a book for my upcoming summer school class on Evangelism and Discipleship entitled Beginning Well.  It defines the above terms (of conversion and transformation), which honestly, is refreshing because I've heard them in different contexts, but not spoken of as an integrated subject.  Almost halfway through, and I get a sense the message is an important one the Church needs to address:  Do we have a clear understanding in mind (of what occurs at conversion and what should follow) when we intentionally shepherd our "believers" toward authentic and honoring discipleship?  

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ephesians 1:10-12: A Rendering

By being "plugged" into God, we have an inheritance from Him that we yet comprehend.  We were determined by God to walk with Him before creation came to being.  God chose us in advance to serve a purpose, His purpose, that satisfies His core drive, the Sovereign Will of God.  His Will, the goal and unavoidable result is that we who are of Christ Jesus, as we hope in Him as Salvation to Mankind, would exalt the Glory of God.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Qualifying Comment or Two and the Taste of Things to Come

Shall I begin with a comment on some feedback I've received from my most recent posts?  I have been told more or less that my tone has been intense.  Perhaps that is the best way to describe it.  It is not without design, however.  I understand that I come across as abrasive at times.  What I don't think I have accounted for was the impact that has on people.  Yes, my intent was to jar some into thought.  Yes, I understand that I may have swung the proverbial pendulum a bit too far than seems necessary.  I chose to because the full balance of the message (of God's Sovereignty in combination with His empowerment of unity and relationship with Himself and fellow believers), in my opinion was not being met.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  We need to understand who God is for our understanding of the significance of our relationships with Him and others to have any impactful meaning.  To neglect God's essence and provision within the success of the relationships formed is to negate God's credit due Him and claim it as our own doing.  That to me is scary.  My intent was to share my concern and continue the dialogue, not to scare people into thinking I believed a strange doctrine or distrusted the methods of my spiritual leaders.  

That said, I wish to share another thought.  I must qualify it with a lesson I've learned from the above situation.  The fact is sound teaching is essential.  My pastor, Kevin, shared an insightful insight of how there are degrees of comprehension that the multitude of believers hold.  To paraphrase Kevin, the spiritual meat for me may be spiritual milk for another and vice versa.  I say all this because I need it to be known that I understand we are all at different stages of our journey following Christ and that is okay, and God designed.  I am not frustrated with a lack of fervor from fellow followers as compared with what I experience, nor am I (overly) concerned with a lack or abundance of zeal within myself.  It is what it is, and God will use the whole Church, every member at every step of advancement further into Kingdom living, to reveal His manifold wisdom to those in the Heavenly Realm (in fact, it is a fallacy to think God expects us all to "arrive" before He is satisfied with us).  

So there's that disclaimer.  It logically leads to my next disclaimer; that I am one at a certain stage of the journey too, with hundreds of thousands of miles to go (most likely).  What I am about to propose is a thought that still needs much study and reflection.  It may not be gospel truth, but then again, it may, which is why I bring it up, since I'm most concerned with empowering the Body of Christ to authentic Kingdom living.  That said...

What if those who place their trust in the redeeming work of Christ are no longer SINNERS, but have been set free from a sinful nature, given a new one, and we no longer should be discouraged by our failings.  In fact, what we continue to experience as sinning, could better be thought as a trespass or transgression, readily covered by the blood of the Lamb as we abide in Him.  

These thoughts spur from Colossians 2:10-15, Galatians 5:1, 13-16, and with due consideration of what seems like contradictions found in 1 John.  Speaking specifically of the 1 John usages of sin, sinning and sinner, I have done preliminary research on word meaning and read commentary that seem to give context that explains 1:8-10 as referring to non-believers.  Elsewhere in the letter John speaks of believers as sinning, and committing sin.  The word study on harmatia (the Greek for sin) shows multiple connotations, which ranges from a sinful nature/state/condition/power to the grievous act.  I would need to delve deeper into the text and greek forms to assess whether a particular form denoted a particular meaning.  The commentary I read seems to suggest much of the usage of sin in 1 John denotes a meaning synonymous with transgression/trespass.  

What does this all mean for the believer?  It speaks to our true identity in Christ, highly empowered for righteous living, and correcting of the lies of the Enemy that we are flawed, broken vessels, not yet usable by God for Kingdom impact.  The Enemy has pacified millions of believers by tricking us into doubting our true state.

Do we still sin?  Perhaps, because of the connotations attached to the word, we would benefit from using others.  Yes, we sin if one means we transgress or trespass.  Are we still sinners?  I would argue no, not those who abide in Christ.  And with that qualifier ("not those who abide in Christ") I am beginning to see the depth this study can take me.  It opens questions on the Free Will debate, whether one exposed to the graces of God can willfully rebel from God... My preliminary reading of 1 John seems to suggest it is a possibility.  Perhaps one day I will grasp a fuller comprehension of this delicate tightrope walk.  

More to come, you can be sure!  Just how soon is another issue.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reflective Thoughts as of Late

Here was the thought that permeated my mind Sunday morning that I just had to write down lest I forget it.

The only thing that shakes me out of my self-centeredness is not ponderings of my relationship with God but increasing awareness of God's Glory.  My relationship with God can still be all about me.  Recognition of His Glory, of His Intensity, drops me to my knees and I'm compelled to love Him accurately and obey His Kingdom design to represent Him to others through love.

Then, during the sermon, I watched the faces of my fellow congregants as my Pastor spoke on our identities' foundation being God's Love.  He prefaced the sermon saying this was one of the most essential truths needing to be understood by the Church.  The faces of those listening throughout the sermon, for the most part, were not filled with anticipation of affirmation of thought, as if they just needed to be reassured God loved them, so they could then go out and live properly.  They, for the most part, were not on the edge of their seat soaking up anything they have never heard a thousand times before.  

God's love is foundational to understanding our identity as Children of God, as Christ's representatives for the Kingdom, as ambassadors of reconciliation.  God's love has no meaning if we fail to understand who God is!  The only thing that makes me comprehend God's more true nature as loving and gracious and compassionate is when I understand that God should slay us all for our inadequacy compared to Him.  Moses would have surely dropped dead if he beheld God's presence face to face.  

I hear how great God's love is for us.  If I don't understand the Glorious, Horrifying Might of Him who acts in lovingkindness toward undeserving sinners, but rather view him like my biological father, I would quite think God's love is a waste of time and not worth the heart-ache.  Not as if my biological dad is a scumbag (he is not); he simply does not offer a love that inspires me, nay compels me, to die for the world to know about it.  His love is not that big.  God's love is that big, however, but not if we fail to grasp who He is.  

My pastor used John 15:8-11 as a proof text for his point but passed right over the most central point of it:

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

"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."

Did you catch it?  Jesus speaks first about the Father's glory!  Why mention it if it is not central to His message?  Jesus is most concerned not with us abiding in His love, but with the Father's glory being recognized; it just happens to be that He has planned for His Glory to be seen through our abiding love in Him. 

The Abiding Love is not the END.  It is the MEANS to the END!  What good is it to teach the mean as being the end when it is not supported by Scripture and does not bear much fruit (I have been taught for twelve years that it's all about our relationship with God and that He loves us, to no avail... I've been only slightly influenced to abide in Christ as a result and that has only been out of pride to do the Faith thing better... it looks a lot like me earning my keep more than God serving me)?  

We need to teach that we have an incredible God, far greater than we can comprehend and that if we were to go before Him in judgement, the verdict should be frightening.  Then we should teach that there is no hope us according to anything we can do.  Nothing we accomplish for God should foster a sense of propitiation in us.  All service to God is filthy rags, including those commands straight from Jesus that sound great.  Then we should teach that God, first as reflective of His Glory, shows mercy on the depraved and serves us by making communion with Him possible.  Then we should teach that it is out of both gratitude and fear (for God remains wrathful) that we gladly accept the new nature in the spirit, empowered only by the Spirit, and that we should be conscientious to keep in our thoughts that all is possible only when God acts, not us.  This teaching rightly remains focused on God's centrality and sovereignty.  It does not even hint at the possibility of us having any power, for we do not (apart from God).  And it is offensive, as the gospel should be.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Divine Appointments

I was preparing research on a Bible Study that I'm doing soon for  2:9-23, listening to John Piper's sermons that cover this text.  Well, in one of his sermons, his context regarded the amendment of his church's bylaws concerning alcohol consumption of members.  He focused on verse 16, and compared Alcoholism and Legalism.  It sounded completely irrelevant to the direction I sense God wanting to take His church currently (since Piper's sermon was delivered in 1982), but then I started to listen to some of the descriptions of his concern over legalism vs. alcoholism.  Piper spoke on concerns that legalism strived to improve moral righteousness by human means as alcoholism encouraged blatant immorality through its lack of effort.  An underlying theme was that of legalism was more dangerous than alcoholism because it aims to attain righteousness, in the guise of God's will, but it is entirely of the Deceiver, since Man's attempts at fulfilling Law are always failure to actually succeeding.  Its cloaked appearance of honorable intention blinds people of its danger.  Then an interesting thought crossed my mind.  

What if Satan has shifted his strategy?  What Satan once did with Legalism, he now does with the relationally-focused, freedom-perverted "gospel" we now teach at our pulpits.  He no longer tries to force us into having tunnel-vision righteousness as practiced by observing strict religious laws; he makes us feel righteous by having us think our God is altogether like us (Psa 50:21), accessible through relationship and quick to ignore our sins, since Christ died for them already.  

I have serious problems with thinking the freedom God gives us through Christ is in regards to our preferential lifestyle choices!  I know we ignore Paul's words in Romans 6:1 when we think we are free to do anything other than loving God and our neighbor RADICALLY.  

As far as God's approachable nature: He is approachable and we can and do have relationship with Him.  That is not the whole picture, however.  We say all the time that God never changes, but most of us do not believe that.  We read the graphically violent, obsessive zeal of God in Exodus, Joshua, Judges, etc., where He slays thousands of Egyptian firstborns, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, and commands His chosen people to leave none remaining in the land... we read it and dismiss that God remains that way because God is Love.  We fail to think critically that perhaps the love that we addictively affix ourselves to, is not a relationally-focused, "God is my best friend" kind of love.  

How many of us consider the Love that God is has not us as its subject, but God Himself?!  

God is most concerned with His own Glory and acknowledgement of His splendor FAR MORE than He is with how "healthy" our relationship with Him is.  

My fear is that if we do not start to address this in our teaching to the Church, the vast majority of believers will remain deceived and be utterly shocked the moment they appear before the glorified Lord, and not in a good way.  Why else do you think the apostle John fell to his face before Christ on Patmos when receiving the Revelation?  Why did Joshua fall on his face before the Commander of the Lord's army?  They were scared to death of their inferiority compared to Christ glorified.  

The Glorified LORD convicts Man of his utter depravity.  

When we think God is altogether like us, one who is strictly gentle and loving to us foremost, as we are to ourselves, we worship a false god.  

The true gospel is not freedom from sin to do as we please and abounding grace for our failure to engage God's commands.  It is not new-found relationship with God.  The true gospel is that there is a God so magnificently Glorious that He was compelled to express it through a created universe and that despite knowing the creatures He designed to bear His image would become completely corrupt, He chose to allow it to happen nonetheless so that the intensified display of His Glory may be seen by all, as He poetically works His sovereign might to correct it all through the work on the Cross, cursing His begotten Son to death, that the whole world may know that He is God and He will spare those that believe all that He truly is, none less.  

The true relationship and outpouring of His mercy and grace is found only as we recognize our place in creation, as He reveals it.  This is the only hope we have for salvation.  Anything that deters from it is false doctrine, intended to deceive and lead people astray from the commands God decrees for His creation, to love and adore God and express it to those around you, that they too may be fortunate enough for God to reveal Himself to them too.  

This post is titled "Divine Appointments" because I trust God orchestrated my listening of Piper's sermon with just that tiny little nugget of insight regarding legalism to help me connect Legalism's similarity to what we do now in holding fast to the presumptuous Relational Approach of the Faith.  We think by working on our relationship with God, we are fulfilling the Will of God, as if Man can do that.  We have deceived ourselves to think this is God's intent for existence.  We think we are charged to work at growing closer to God and growing closer together in unity, because we see descriptions of it is Scripture.  But we fail to see with "God's Glory" lenses that it is all about Him and His ministry to us, for Him to accomplish all of the unifying, all of the increasing intimacy with Him.  

To think we are capable of accomplishing anything of value in our own merit - even to label our own merit as God's empowering (when it is not because our perspective/motives are wrong) - is to cheapen the value of the Cross of Christ and dismiss the value of the grace which flows from it.  How dare we rather trust in our own fruit, which appears before the Lord as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  How dare we preach anything that exalts our power to accomplish anything for the Kingdom apart from God doing it through us, His instruments.  How dare we attribute our own fruit as God's, further deceiving ourselves of our false doctrines' validity.  Is that not false humility?

I trust as God divinely appointed my listening of that insight, He will divinely appoint your reading of my post.  Seek God and ask for His insight on your life.  The consequences are too dire otherwise.