Christianity 201

September 3, 2018

How Many (Spiritual) Children Do You Have?

Becoming a Contagious Christian

The church I attend has as its purpose statement, “Love God, Serve Others, Show the Way;” and several years ago, in the third of three messages, the focus was on the discipleship process.

Each of us is called to be discipled, but then to make disciples. We should have a deep desire to reproduce ourselves.

Question: How many of you have ever been present to witness the birth of a baby?

Next Question: How many of you have been present to witness someone’s spiritual birth?

Some people know what it’s like to lead someone else in a commitment to making Christ Lord of their lives, but sadly, others wouldn’t know where to begin. Yet nowhere in what we call “The Great Commission” is there indication that this is for some to do, but not others.

Eugene Peterson has given us a great gift with The Message Bible. I know I quote it often here, but I have great respect for it, and as he worked from original languages, I regard it as a translation, not, as some say derisively, a paraphrase. This is how he translates the passage:

Matthew 18-19 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.

Why does it say “undeterred”? The previous verses give the answer:

Matthew 16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

The process of leading someone to Christ does take some personal risk. A few weeks ago I was challenged to say to someone, “Are you ready to make that move? Do you think you want to cross that line of faith?”

This person replied that they were “heading in that direction;” but that this wasn’t the time. That’s fine. I considered that a good and honest response. However, what you need to know is that I actually broke off the conversation twice before returning a third time, to ask this question. I felt God prompting me to do so, but in my mind, I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t do this at that point in the discussion.

Someone once asked me how many children my wife and I have. I told him, “Two;” and he said “Oh, so you’ve only reproduced yourselves.” It turned out that his take on Christianity included the “Quiver-full” teaching that Christians should have as many kids as possible.

But how many of you have begotten spiritual children? Some of you perhaps have never reproduced yourselves at all. You could say, “I can’t do that;” but if you explain childbirth to a young woman it sounds equally daunting and impossible, yet many women bear children. There are so many books, podcasts, seminars, etc. on how to lead someone to Christ, that it’s hard for me to fathom someone dismissing the task that Jesus commanded us to do.

Before the early disciples of Jesus were called Christians at Antioch, the movement was referred to as “the way,” or we could even say, ‘the path.’ Our goal should be to lead people to “the way,” which not only describes the fledgling breakaway sect Judiasm, but is a term that Jesus used to describe himself:

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NLT)

[Watch an actual encounter between an apologist and a student in the comments section of this blog post. Note: This uses a formulaic approach that may not be effective in all cases. 13 minutes.]

…I thought I’d leave us today with a song by the band Newworldson; I hope you enjoy it. You might even send the link* for the song to someone you know to start the faith conversation.

*double click through to view the video at source, then copy and paste the URL from your browser

September 2, 2018

A Meditation on Labor (Day Weekend)

The Message Romans 12.1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (italics added)

This is the Labor Day Weekend in Canada and the United States. Ruth wanted to find some worship content having to do with the theology of work, only to discover that, from a worship leader’s perspective, there isn’t much out there. The second verse below, which some of you know better as, “Do everything as unto the Lord;” is a reminder that our worship life toward God is holistic. We don’t worship only on Sundays or only in song, but we can make elements of what Eugene Peterson (in the quotation above) calls our “everyday, ordinary life” an offering to God.

by Ruth Wilkinson

Labor Day is part of a weekend that historically stands to celebrate and honor workers and those who have worked to humanize working conditions. Part of that celebration, aptly enough, is a day off work. (And all God’s people said, “Woohoo!”)

And while everybody likes a day off, there’s more to work than just obligation born of necessity.

The God who created us modeled us after himself.

This is a God who imagines and designs and builds.

A God who plants and grows and provides.

Who teaches and directs and supervises.

Who looks after animals and cares for people.

And he put within us the same inclinations and capacities as exist in himself.

Whether we’re earning a wage, or just helping a neighbor in need, our work is a gift from the Father who loves us and made us to be like Him.


In the beginning, The LORD put the man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Then God brought to the man every wild animal and every bird of the sky, so the man could give them all their own names.

In the same way, whatever work you do, do it willingly, with all your heart – working for the Lord, and not only for a human boss.

The soul of the lazy one craves everything and gets nothing…

But the wise one rises early, providing food for her household and jobs for her workers.
She studies, and invests, and makes an honest profit;
She wraps herself in strength, because her arms are strong.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She learns her trade and uses her tools.
She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out to the needy.
And when winter comes, she’s not afraid for her household.

The soul of the lazy craves everything and gets nothing…
but the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

So let the thief steal no longer, but let him do honest work with his own hands, so he has something to share with anyone in need.


O grant us, God, a little space
from our daily work set free.
To meet within this holy place
we’ve built apart for Thee.

But this is not the only place Your presence may be known;
In all our daily work, Your grace and blessing you have sewn.

Around us rolls an endless tide –
labor and trade and care.
Today we choose to turn aside
for one brief hour of prayer.

But this is not the only place Your presence may be known;
In all our daily work, Your grace and blessing you have sewn.

Work can be prayer, if it is wrought
as you want it to be done;
And prayer, by you inspired and taught,
can with our work be one.

For this is not the only place Your presence may be known;
In all our daily work, Your grace
and blessing you have sewn.

– Scriptures based on Genesis 2, Colossians 3, Proverbs 13, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 4
– Hymn by John Ellerton, 1870, Edited by Ruth Wilkinson


Consecrating our work to God:

I wanted to include Take My Life and Let it Be as a conclusion to Ruth’s liturgy, but searched for a tune different from the traditional one, or the Chris Tomlin one. This one is sung in the UK, and uses the tune Nottingham by Mozart.

September 1, 2018

Greater Things Ahead

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:53 pm
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Today we’re back once again with Charles Price, Minister at Large and former Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto.  Find more devotions like this at Living Truth.

Even Greater Things

Psalms 132-134

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”   —John 1:50

Jesus not only knew who Nathanael was, but where he was and what he would become. When Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus said that He saw him under the fig tree before Philip had called him. This would have seemed impossible to Nathanael because Jesus was not in the vicinity at the time. He declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John1:49).

For Nathanael, believing Jesus saw him under the fig tree led to the profound revelation of Jesus as the King of Israel, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, “You shall see greater things than that.” In other words, because you believe the little that you have begun to understand now, that belief will grow and you will see even greater things. The revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God works the same way in our own lives. It is a progression of knowledge and personal experience of Christ in which we will begin to see even greater things.

Jesus then said to Nathanael, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man” (John 1:51). We are not sure what Jesus meant by that, but we frequently read a passage in Scripture that rings a bell and connects with something we have read before. It may be that this verse alludes back to the story of when Jacob first acted in rebellion against God. One night, Jacob had a dream involving a ladder extending from earth to heaven upon which angels were ascending and descending. This is the same image Jesus speaks of with Nathanael, portraying a link between heaven and earth.

If I may paraphrase, perhaps what Jesus is saying is something like this: “Nathanael, you are going to see more than the King of Israel. You are going to see the bond between God and humanity. You are going to see the link between heaven and earth because of your experience of Me.” Jesus Christ is Himself the link between heaven and earth, God and humanity.

All revelation of God and of Jesus Christ is by the Holy Spirit whose task it is to live the life of Christ in us and through us. Every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ and so we have living within us the link between heaven and earth, God and humanity. It is living in intimate union with Jesus Christ that makes possible the greater things God will do in our lives.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, it is incredibly amazing to know we have the link between heaven and earth living within us. Thank You for giving us Jesus, and I pray for an ever deepening relationship with Him.

 

August 31, 2018

John Knew the Incarnate Christ Better Than Anyone

This is our second time looking at the blog of Laura J. Davis. Click the title below to read at source.

How Well do You Know Jesus?

Have you ever noticed how the Apostle John started his first book? I’m sure you have as it’s not hard to miss. He is clearly making a statement about new beginnings and he does it by using Genesis as his foundation. He is making two points very strongly by using Genesis. The first is a not-so-subtle message to the Jewish people – God has started something new – pay attention. He then follows that up with who he meant by God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

​He begins when God brought everything into existence, but he makes it very clear that there was someone else at play – The Word. The Word was with God in the beginning. In fact, John says, “The Word was God.” Now that would have had many Jewish people sitting up and paying attention. Who was this Word?

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

He was in the beginning with God. – John 1:2

Genesis 1:2 lets us know for the first time a unique aspect of God – He is Spirit and John continues to emphasize that The Word was with God in the beginning. The Word and the Spirit are one with God.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.– Genesis 1:3-5

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.– John 1:3

God divided the light from the darkness and John uses that example to explain how The Word was similar to the light God separated from the darkness. He explains that The Word was life and that life was the light of men. In other words, His life provided light and hope to all mankind. As God divided the day from night (light from darkness) so the Word acted in much the same way – providing light to those living in darkness. But sadly, not all those living in the darkness comprehended the Light and refused to come near it.

​So, who was this Word that was also the Light and was with God in the beginning?

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying,

This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:14

He was Jesus! God incarnate who came to earth in a human vessel to lead us in the way everlasting. To show us how great the Light really is and to prepare a way for us to live eternally in that Light. Sadly, the darkness of this world STILL does not comprehend the love the Father has for them. Many are still trapped in the darkness and fog of not grasping the enormity of what God actually did for them. He came down to earth in human form. He lowered Himself to our level in order to raise us up to eternal life in Him.

Everyone can come into that light and partake of the joy of knowing Jesus. He died for sinners, not saints. In other words, He doesn’t ask you to change before you come to Him, He simply says, “Come to Me.”

I wrote a book many years ago, with that title, Come to Me. It is a novelization of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of His mother. It’s available in my bookstore. I wrote it because some people won’t bother to pick up a Bible, but they will read a novel.

If you think Christianity is what you see out in the world today, if you think that is Jesus – you would be wrong. Jesus didn’t involve himself in politics. He didn’t call out specific sins or individual sinners over others. He didn’t protest certain causes either. In fact, if he had any complaints at all, it was not directed towards government officials or causes. It was directed towards religious leaders and their hypocrisy.

So don’t judge Jesus based on the way the media portrays Christians today. Read about him in the Bible or pick up my book and read about him. But find out about him. Get to know him as he is meant to be known. You’ll be glad you did.

 

August 30, 2018

Jesus: His Glory and His Greatness

Clarke Dixon, who normally occupies this space on Thursdays, suggested today that we use the sermon notes from the person who replaced him on a recent Sunday. I agreed; this is great material to review.

by Blake Tufford

Part One: The Glorious Person of our Lord Jesus Christ

What do we learn about Him in this passage from Hebrews chapter 1?

First, He’s greater than all the prophets. In the past god has spoken through them many times, and in many different ways. He has spoken miraculously through a prophet like Elijah. Elijah stood up bravely against wicked King Ahab and all the false prophets of Baal. Through his prayer God sent down fire to consume a water drenched sacrifice, and then sent rain to end a four year drought. But Jesus is greater than Elijah! God has also spoken through Isaiah. He’s the one who wrote of Christ’s suffering 500 years before it happened. Isaiah predicted He would be “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, that the chastisement of our sins would be placed on Him, and that through His stripes we would be healed”. But Christ is greater than Isaiah! God also spoke miraculously through Jeremiah.

Again, centuries before Christ’s birth he wrote: “Behold the days are coming declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and He shall reign as King and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and judgement…. And this is the name by which he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness”! And our Jesus is greater than Jeremiah, and greater than all the other prophets. It is He who has spoken in these last days. We read in the first chapter of John’s gospel, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Jesus is God’s final word and we do well to hear Him. God is speaking to us in these last days through Jesus.

Second, He is greater than the angels. In fact it is He whom the angels worship. (v.6), and it is He who sends out the angels (v.7). Angels are associated with all the great events in the old and new testaments. It was an angel who came to Mary with the astonishing news, troubling news for her, that she was to give birth to the son of God. It was angels who met the shepherds with good news of great joy. And it will be angels who will join with all creation in singing His praises in heaven. Rev. 5:12, myriads of them, thousands and thousands singing “worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might, and honor and glory and blessing.” But Jesus is far greater than angels.

Third, He is the one through whom the world was created (v2). That truth is also repeated in John 1, “All things were made through him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” He was with God from the beginning when the world was created. He is the great creator.

Next, His person He radiates the glory of God (v3). He is “the radiation of the glory of god, and the exact image of his nature.” It is no surprise to us then that He Himself said, “He that has seen Me has seen the Father”(John 14:9) He is God the Son, second person in the trinity, fully God and fully man.

Finally, He is altogether lovely. And as He is indeed altogether lovely, He is also altogether loving. His nature is love. Rom. 5:8 says “In this He has manifested his love in that while we were yet sinners,(even His open enemies), He gave Himself for us.  And we read in Galatians that having once loved his people, He loved them to the end. Jesus is love personified. Jesus is glorious in every way.

The greatness of His person: The one who is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, the great creator, the one who radiates God’s presence, and reflects His love. He is God’s final word. It is no wonder then that we read in Phil. 2 that there is a coming day when every eye will see Him, every ear will hear His voice, and every knee will bow before him.

Let’s be sure we are those who hear Him now.

Part Two: The Greatness of His Work

We’re thinking now of what He has done, what He is doing now, and what He will yet do. Jesus holds the offices of Prophet, Priest and King. As our Prophet He fulfills all the promises we find in scripture to shed light on our path, to guide us on the way, and to direct our lives. As our Priest He fulfills all the promises found in scripture concerning pardon, forgiveness, peace with God. As our king he fulfills all scriptural promises concerning defence from our enemies, protection in danger, deliverance from evil.

I want us to think more specifically about His priestly role, all He has done to secure our salvation. It is important we do so because He is not one of several ways to God, He is the only way. “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved,” (Acts 4:12)

First,  He is our mediator. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim 2:5) We can’t come through our church, we can’t come through His mother Mary, nor through any of the saints. No, we come through Christ alone. “He only can unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.

Second, He is our substitute, our sin bearer. I’m going to the Old Testament book of Isaiah again to read these familiar words. “He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquity, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, the Lord has lain on Him the iniquity of us all.” Think of the wonder of that; He endured the punishment our sins deserved. “All my iniquity on him was laid. All my indebtedness by him was paid”.

Third, He is our propitiation. This is one of my favourite words! John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins.” Other versions say atoning sacrifice. He is the one who took God’s anger. He removed it. We often hear “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. But how often do we hear “God is angry with the sinner every day.” (Psalm7:11, KJV) In His holiness god cannot abide sin, but the wonderful news is that Christ propitiates that anger. He removed it by being punished in our place.

Fourth, He is our redeemer, the one who buys us back from slavery to sin .”In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of god’s grace.” (Eph. 1:7) That word redeemed brings before our minds the picture of a slave being bought back and set free.

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it,
redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,
redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.
Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

Fifth, He is also our justification. This is a legal term confirming the believer has been declared righteous. “Those He called , them he also justified”. (Rom. 8:20) Imagine for a moment the terror of standing in god’s presence, clothed in our own righteousness, our own goodness. (We could say our own lack of goodness.) But we don’t need to, we can stand in His presence justified, because you see, the believer is covered in Christ’s righteousness.

Sixth, He is also our keeper. He enables us to persevere. When He was here, the Lord Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice . I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” If our salvation depended on ourselves, on anything we can do, then we would have every reason to fear. But since it is Christ’s hand holding us we may rest secure. We often see in films or on TV, someone falling and hanging over a roof edge or a cliff by one hand. They’re dangling desperate for help. Sometimes they’re pulled to safety, sometimes they fall to their death. But our Savior will never let go.

Lastly, He is a coming King, but He is reigning right now as King of kings and Lord of lords. This of course was predicted long ago. We read about it in Isaiah 9, a verse usually read at Christmas, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” He entered Jerusalem as king, and was rejected. But He was raised from the dead, and we read in Eph. 1 that He is now seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms, that He has all authority, dominion and power, that God has placed all things under his feet, and appointed Him head over everything.

The glorious work of Christ: We have seen him as our mediator, substitute, propitiation, redeemer, justifier and keeper. He is reigning now and will return one day in glory and power.

What is He saying to us?

I believe He’s saying, “Look unto me and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other.”

August 29, 2018

You Have the Gift, Now Where Do You Use It?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: ,

Eph. 4.11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

1 Cor. 12.4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

We found this rather awesome article on the New Wineskins page at Patheos yesterday. It’s a bit more practical than we usually run here, but I wanted readers here to see it. You need to copy and paste the various scripture references today. The author is Josh Daffern, and I strongly encourage you to read it on his blog by clicking the title below.

Specific Places of Service for Every Spiritual Gift in Your Church

It’s common for Christians to get excited about discovering their spiritual gifts, take a test or an online assessment (like spiritualgiftstest.com), and then lose interest because they don’t know a practical way to leverage their spiritual gifts in the local church. We’re called not just to discover our spiritual gifts but to develop them. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are a few specific places in the local where you can begin to leverage every spiritual gift:

ADMINISTRATION – (The gift of administration is the divine strength or ability to organize multiple tasks and groups of people to accomplish these tasks — 1 Corinthians 12:28.)  Almost any ministry in the church needs some organization behind the scenes. You could volunteer in the church office, manage supplies for the children’s ministry or help check-in students to small groups.

APOSTLESHIP (The gift of apostleship is the divine strength or ability to pioneer new churches and ministries through planting, overseeing, and training — Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28.) Apostles are pioneers and are the perfect folks to help get a new ministry or project off the ground. They love a challenge!

DISCERNMENT (The gift of discernment is the divine strength or ability to spiritually identify falsehoods and to distinguish between right and wrong motives and situations — 1 Corinthians 12:10.) These folks are great for the security team! They can also make a big impact if you have leadership teams that help give oversight to various ministries of the church or teams that minister out in the community such as a benevolence ministry. 

ENCOURAGEMENT (The gift of encouragement is the divine strength or ability to encourage others through the written or spoken word and Biblical truth — Romans 12:8.) Folks with the gift of encouragement are great just about everywhere, but can make a special impact working on a host team making the first impression for your church. Encouragers can also encourage online through a social media team.

EVANGELISM (The gift of evangelism is the divine strength or ability to help non-Christians take the necessary steps to becoming a born again Christian – – Ephesians 4:11.) Most folks think door-to-door witnessing but evangelists are also perfect for working with youth, who are often at a critical juncture in their faith.

FAITH (The gift of faith is the divine strength or ability to believe in God for unseen supernatural results in every arena of life — Romans 12:8.) Like evangelism, people with the gift of faith are great working with teenagers, believing in them when many teenagers don’t believe in themselves. People with the gift of faith are also critically important to any recovery ministry your church might have.

GIVING (The gift of giving is the divine strength or ability to produce wealth and to give it by tithes and offerings for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God on earth — Romans 12:8.) People with the gift of giving are great serving in the community on behalf of the church because their generosity to others beautifully represents the generosity of God. Also if you have any team creating framework or accelerating the giving within the church, people with the gift of giving are naturals here.

KNOWLEDGE (The gift of knowledge is the divine strength or ability to understand and bring clarity to situations and circumstances often accompanied by a word from God — 1 Corinthians 12:8.) People with knowledge make incredible Bible teachers in small group or classroom settings. Knowledge can also be useful in specific fields such as a medical response team or working with production or audio/visual. 

LEADERSHIP (The gift of leadership is the divine strength or influence people at their level while directing and focusing them on the big picture, vision, or idea — Romans 12:8.) Like the gift of encouragement leaders are beneficial in every ministry of the church. The key is to identify people with the gift of leadership and give them meaningful opportunities to lead.

MERCY (The gift of mercy is the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way — Romans 12:8). Folks with the gift of mercy are great working with young children, ministering in the community through outreach, or even working with senior adults, the sick and the elderly.

PASTOR/SHEPHERD (The gift of pastor/shepherd is the divine strength or ability to care for the personal needs of others by nurturing and mending life issues — Ephesians 4:11.) Pastor/shepherds tend to be your best small group leaders because they truly create a sense of family and community where the body ministers to one another. People with these gifts are also incredible in children’s ministry as they shepherd the next generation.

PROPHECY (The gift of prophecy is the divine strength or ability to boldly speak and bring clarity to scriptural and doctrinal truth, in some cases foretelling God’s plan — 1 Corinthians 12:10.) People with the gift of prophecy can bring a divine power to a prayer team or prayer ministry. In many cases prophets can be incredible teachers, bringing clarity to issues that seem confusing to most. There is no gray with prophets, only black and white, right and wrong.

SERVICE (The gift of serving is the divine strength or ability to do small or great tasks in working for the overall good of the body of Christ — Romans 12:7.) Like the gift of leadership those with service are beneficial in every area of the church. The key difference is they want to be behind-the-scenes. If you have a team of folks that sets up or breaks down chairs, does maintenance or small construction projects within the church, operates sound boards or video cameras, basically anything where there is no spotlight, these servants thrive. 

TEACHING (The gift of teaching is the divine strength or ability to study and learn from the Scriptures primarily to bring understanding and depth to other Christians — Ephesians 4:11.) Teachers obviously make incredible small group leaders and large group teachers and preachers. Any ministry or program where the Bible is taught, you want someone with the gift of teaching to have the microphone in their hand.

WISDOM (The gift of wisdom is the divine strength or ability to apply the truths of Scripture in a practical way, producing the fruitful outcome and character of Jesus Christ — 1 Corinthians 12:8). Like the gift of discernment, people with wisdom are incredible on leadership teams that give oversight to the church. Whether it’s serving on a board, with a team of elders, on a Personnel Team (or however else you slice it), people with wisdom are the ones you want pointing your church forward into the future. 

August 28, 2018

You are a Slave: Who is Your Master?

by Russell Young

How often have you heard a passage put in a context that seems to make sense without giving its meaning second thought? Romans 6:23 may be one of them. “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This passage is often used in the evangelizing process to confront people with the fate that awaits sinners and to reveal the hope provided by Christ; however, the context of this passage makes it more expansive than often appreciated. It is directed to both those who have confessed faith in Christ and to those who have not. Paul is addressing the question of whether those who claim to be believers should go on sinning “that grace may increase” (v 1) and has stated that we should “count” ourselves, or consider ourselves, to have died to the practice of sin which our baptism has pledged. He has proclaimed that sin should not be our master because we are no longer under the law. In addressing slavery to sin his words are:

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:16 Italics added)

In his encouragement, he has added, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (v 18) The freedom to which he refers is from past sin and from slavery to sin since breaking the law is sin and the law has been nailed to the cross. Paul wrote to the Colossians,

“When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code (the law) with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:1314)

Old Covenant law does not apply to those under the New Covenant, therefore sin cannot be acquired by breaking its prescriptions. He has commended their slavery to righteousness since they were obeying the teaching that he had given. Paul went on to explain that although they used to offer their bodies in slavery to sin, they were to “now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (v 19) Further he explained, “but now that you have been set free from sin (past Heb 9:15) and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v 22) His position is that slavery to righteousness leads to eternal life. It is in this context that he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many confessors have taken the last clause, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” to over-rule the first. A “gift” is normally something given unconditionally. Paul has not promoted the idea of a “gift” anywhere in this chapter, however. In keeping with his teaching on “slavery” a more understandable and a better rendering of charisma, the Greek from which “gift” has been translated, can be gained.

The Liddle and Scott Greek Dictionary presents charisma to mean “grace, favour.” The online Ancient Greek Dictionary (to 1453), Glosbe, represents charisma to mean “personal charm or magnetism; (Christianity) an extraordinary power granted by the Holy Spirit; the ability to influence without the use of logic; a personal attractiveness or interestingness that enables you to influence others; personal magnetism or charm.” This chapter does not mention “gift,” nor hint of a gift, but of a life of slavery.

Gift” as used in Romans 6:23 is misleading. Charisma refers to the idea of the appeal or magnetism of God and implies a response by the one who has been attracted or charmed and influenced. Some confessors will not see the charisma of God and to others the influence of a holy God will not endure; they will be claimed by the world once more. It is the appeal of God’s magnetism (attractiveness) which motivates a person’s soul to pursue God and to become a slave to righteousness that provides eternal life. Christ is to be recognized as lord or master and it is through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) that he is able to accomplish the believer’s eternal salvation. Paul has presented that while slavery to sin –which is the continuation of sinning and rebellion against the Spirit—results in death the influence or appeal of Christ entices slavery to righteousness which results in eternal life.

Verse 23 is a summation of his address to the question concerning whether we should go on sinning so that God’s grace should increase. Those who don’t live in slavery to Christ as their master and lord by default become slaves to sin which will result in death. Confessors have the freedom to choose their master. However, the wages of sin is death but the charisma of God provides eternal life through Jesus our Lord, our Master. The sin issue cannot be resolved until the mastery issue is resolved.

Although the first covenant law has lost the power to enslave the confessor, a law still exists that can be broken. Paul said that he was not free from God’s law but was under “Christ’s law” (1 Cor 9:21), which he has also called “the law of the Spirit of life”. (Rom 8:2) Breaking Christ’s law brings death. John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16) If life over death for a brother can be gained by forgiving a sin, neither pardon for sin nor certainty of life must have been established for the brother.

The Lord addressed the issue of slavery, as well. He stated, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:3435 Italics added) A son is one who is led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14), who in slavery to righteousness, through which he or she honors Christ’s law.

Confessors would be wise to consider Paul’s words in their context and to choose their master carefully.


Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

 

 

August 27, 2018

Is Sin a Condition or a State of Being?

Today we’re introducing you to a new (to us) website, Faith, Fiction and Fatherhood. The writer holds a law degree from Baylor and attends a United Methodist Church in Texas. Click the title below and then check out other articles.

Is Sin Phenomenal or Existential?

In Matthew 5:28, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’”

That’s a tough statement, especially given the following advice that if a body part is causing us to sin we ought to cut it off.

But let’s take a step back and think about this on a level deeper than the surface–and the shock that goes along with it. I’m a firm believer that many times when Jesus says something that seems very condemning, what he’s doing is simply laying out for us how the world works and what the natural consequences of a thing are. For instance, when Jesus tells us that, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” in Matthew 19:24, he’s not saying “God condemns rich people for being rich and no one should be.” Rather, I think, he’s saying, “The money and power that go along with wealth–and the accompanying desire to hold onto that money and power–make it very difficult to focus on what is good and true and righteous, because the love of power is seductive and addictive. Be wary that such things do not make you see the world in the wrong way, but keep focused on the way that I have told you to see the world.”

Likewise, in Matthew 5:28, while Jesus does say something that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, reminds us all of our sins, I think that his purpose is less about shaming us and more about telling us about the very nature of sin.

And that’s why this post is titled, “Is sin phenomonal or existential?” If you’ve read many of my other posts, you already know where I fall on this issue, but I’d like to develop the idea a bit more specifically.

When I ask if sin is phenomenal, what I mean to ask is whether sin is a matter of discrete and observable actions, specific behaviors violative of what is righteous. When I ask if sin is existential, I’m asking if, rather than being a matter of specific and easily-identifiable behaviors, sin is a condition or state of being.

The real answer, of course, is that it’s both of these things at once. What the question(s) really seek to answer is whether it is particular actions that lead to a particular state of sin or whether particular actions are the result of a state of being. Again, the best argument is likely that there’s a dialectic between these two things–bad acts make it easier to choose bad acts in the future, deepening a state of sinfulness, but without some existentially sinful condition, there would never be any sinful action, so the influence of one on the other must be mutually reinforcing. So, what should we focus on as primary when dealing with and discussing sin–actions or a state of being.

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus appears to be arguing against the legalism of the Old Testament law (here making specific allusion to the Ten Commandments) and instead showing us that sinfulness is a matter of mindset, perspective (compared to the objective, I mean to intimate no relativistic thought here), paradigm.

There are two quotations I prefer (and have used on the blog before) to encapsulate this idea, which is central and fundamental to existential thought. Having been a professional student and scholar of the Renaissance and early modern periods, both quotations are derived from that most elevated and rarified literary era.

First, some John Milton, from Book I of Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

Second, Shakespeare: “O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.

Following existential thought in general, and Paul Tillich (my favorite theologian) in particular, we argue that humans, as a matter of course and necessity, make meaning in the world. We do this by relating things to one another in their existential aspects and phenomena, creating those relationships through storytelling. The “secular” existentialists see this as the fundamental cause of “existential angst”–we fail to detect any inherent and objective meaning in the things which we observe and with which we interact. But the Christian existentialist takes this farther, first positing that there is ultimate and objective meaning that comes from God, though we may detect such only through divine revelation; and, second, marvelling at the great opportunity, pleasure, power and responsibility we have been given in co-creating with God by establishing meaning through our own narratives, big and small. This process, as a fundamental aspect of man’s existence, is clear from the beginning of Creation–is not Adam creating meaning and relationships by naming the creatures of the Earth?

Upon recognition of this divinely-granted human power, we must immediately recognize the source of sin–the creation of meanings and relationships that are not in line with God’s plan and intentions. Put bluntly, seeing and thinking about the world in the wrong way.

And this is what Jesus warns about in Matthew 5:28–it’s not sin only when you take action to commit adultery; if you have created a mental concept of existence that sees women merely as objects of your lust, that permits infidelity and betrayal for the most fleeting of passions, you’re doing it wrong and you’re already in a state of sinfulness. It’s not enough to refrain from the commission of the action; you must change the way you think about and see the world and how all the things in it relate to one another.

When we compare this concept to other moral teachings of Jesus, we find great support for it. Jesus usually seems to be less concerned about specific actions and more concerned with the ideologies, social structures, theologies and existential states that lead to those actions: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” When we think about sin existentially, sin becomes about relationships, results and intents, not arbitrary restrictions. This comports perfectly with the Greatest Commandments.

Just as the plain language of Jesus’s words make clear, this is a higher standard of morality than avoiding the consummation of unrighteous intents; it is war on unrighteous intent itself. And it makes perfect sense; if you fall into the trap of lusting after people in your mind, that objectification likely affects more than just the questions of adultery and fidelity. In many ways, such thought is about a reduction of the humanity of a person into a personification of of desire and temptation, an indulgence of the self by the self that only needs the other person as a tool of that self-indulgence. Once we’ve stripped such a person of their humanity, however small a slice we may cut away at a time, we will treat them differently, and not in a better way, though the injury to the person may be so subtle as to go generally unnoticed without deep introspection or close observation.

But to focus on just how fallen the idea that sin is existential and caused by our own ordering of our idea of Creation makes us is to miss the point. The strong implication, as Milton shows us, is that just as unrighteous narrative and mental/idealist/ideological relationships make us sinful, righteous ones bring us closer to God. Every time we shift our conception of the world closer to God’s intention for those relationships as demonstrated in Jesus, we are both personally participating in the Kingdom of God and, as we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer, working to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.

In simpler terms, Jesus is implicating here that we create our own reality. Again, not in some relativistic way, because God’s intention for Creation establishes objective truth, but in the way we personally interact with the world and believe it to be. We have been given an astounding power of sub-creation inherent to our free will, but we are also called to use that power to seek righteousness, to become, as Jesus later calls us to become in the Sermon on the Mount: Perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

The scope of the Sermon on the Mount is not a collection of warnings and prohibitions; it is a call to participate in the infinite joy of existence as a child of God by seeking to create the kinds of narratives and mental conceptions that God would have us create.

 

 

 

August 26, 2018

Sabbath: We Rest and We Worship (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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NIV.Gen.2.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Yesterday and today we’re running an excerpt from an earlier book by John Mark Comer whose more recent book God Has a Name we’ve featured here before. This one is Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human (Zondervan, 2015). John Mark is the pastor of Bridgetown Church, in Portland Oregon.

I Am Not a Machine (excerpt, part two)

…It’s a day for rest, and it’s a day for worship.

When I Sabbath, I run everything through this grid — is this rest? Is this worship? If the answer to both questions is yes, then I delight in it; if the answer is no, then I hold off until the next day.

Because the Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.

Make sure you get the difference.

On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You grocery shop, go to the bank, mow the lawn, work on the remodel project, chip away at that sci-fi novel you’re writing . . .

On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. That’s it.

That’s why Moses was teaching the Israelites to get ready for the Sabbath. To bake and boil and gear up for the day of rest.

Think of the Sabbath like a weekly holiday. You don’t just wake up on Christmas morning and think, What should we do today? No, you get ready for it. The same is true for Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July or your birthday or anniversary — you plan and prep and shop and look forward to it for days at a time. In my family, we Sabbath from Friday at sundown through Saturday, so Friday afternoons are always a flurry of activity. We clean the house and finish the to-do list and stop by the market and plan out the day ahead, and then finally, it comes.

Blessed and holy.

Here’s what I’m saying: there is a rhythm to this world. For six days we rule and subdue and work and draw out and labor and bleed and wrestle and fight with the ground. But then we take a step back, and for twenty-four hours, we sabbath, we enjoy the fruit of our labor, we delight in God and his world, we celebrate life, we rest, and we worship.

The Creator God is inviting us to join him in this rhythm, this interplay of work and rest. And when we don’t accept his invitation, we reap the consequences. Fatigue. Burnout. Anxiety. Depression. Busyness. Starved relationships. Worn-down

immune systems. Low energy levels. Anger. Tension. Confusion. Emptiness. These are the signs of a life without rest.

Maybe that’s why later the Sabbath is commanded. When Israel is at the base of Mount Sinai, God comes down on top of the mountain in a cloud of fire and smoke and lightning. And then with a voice like a California earthquake, God speaks the Ten Commandments over his people. His vision for human-ness is shrunk down to ten commands — so few a child can count them on their fingers.

And guess what the longest, most in-depth command is?

The Sabbath. It gets more real estate than any of the others.

God starts off by saying, “Remember the Sabbath day.”

So the Sabbath is something that’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get sucked into this 24/7, go-go-go, hamster wheel that we call the modern world. We’re to remember the Sabbath.

How? By “keeping it holy.”

So the Sabbath is holy, but it’s also something we have to keep holy. It’s easy to profane, to desecrate. It’s easy for it to just become another day in the rat race. Another day to fall into the pattern — work, buy, sell, repeat. We’re to keep it holy — to guard it, watch over it, treat it like a delicate flower in a New York subway.

If you’re thinking, Why should I go to all this trouble? God ends his longest commandment with the answer, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

So, for God, his Sabbath commandment is grounded in the creation story itself.

Lots of people argue that we’re “free” from the Sabbath because it was a part of the Torah, or Law. As if it was a legalistic rule we were stuck with until Jesus. What a tragic misunderstanding.

It is true that we’re no longer under the Torah, and it’s also true that the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.  But even so, the Sabbath still stands as wisdom.

There isn’t a command in the New Testament to eat food or drink water or sleep eight hours a night. That’s just wisdom, how the Creator set up the human body and the world itself.

You can skip the Sabbath — it’s not sin. It’s just stupid. You can eat concrete — it’s not sin. It’s just dumb.

You can stay awake for days at a time like Josh Lyman in The West Wing. Go ahead. God’s not mad at you. But if you do that long enough, you’ll die.

At one point, Moses calls the Sabbath a gift. That’s exactly what it is.

I cringe when I hear people argue about whether or not we have to keep the Sabbath, and if so, on what day. Some say Saturday like the Jews, others say Sunday because of Jesus’ resurrection, others think any day is fine. But all this arguing is an exercise in missing the point. The point is that there is a way the Creator set the creation up to thrive. A way that God set you up to thrive. And when we Sabbath, we tap into God’s rhythm for human flourishing.

Technically, the Sabbath is from twenty minutes before sundown on Friday evening to Saturday late afternoon (the Jewish day is measured from sunset to sunset). But most followers of Jesus Sabbath on Sunday, as it’s the day of Messiah’s resurrection, as well as the day we come together for worship. For me Sunday is a workday. And it’s exhausting. I’m up early, gearing up for a marathon day. My last teaching is at eight p.m.! So by the time I get home around eleven o’clock, I’m crawling along the floor.

Not literally. That was a metaphor.

So we follow the tradition of Friday night to Saturday late afternoon, but only because it works for our life. I don’t think what day you take is important. Genesis doesn’t say Friday or Saturday; it just says the seventh. And the writer Paul said, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” I guess people have been arguing about this for a while. For us, Friday night to Saturday just works great.

And for us, the Sabbath is by far the highlight of the week. My two youngest children, Moses and Sunday, are both five, so they honestly have no clue how to tell time. Tomorrow and three days from now and next week all blend into one. So every morning they ask me, Is it Sabbath? with a big, hopeful, childlike grin. Jude is nine and pretty snappy with his new watch, so he counts down all week long. Three days until Sabbath. Two days left. Tomorrow! Which comes as no surprise. In Genesis, Sabbath is the climax of the seven-day cycle. It’s on day seven, not three or four. It’s not a pause so we can recoup and then “get back to work.” If anything, it’s the other way around. It’s the end goal, what the entire week is moving toward. The climax is an entire day set aside to worship.

Just like work, when it’s done right, is an act of worship, the same is true with rest. You can rest as an act of worship to God.

You can even rest to the glory of God. When you enjoy the world as God intended — with a cup of coffee, a nap in a hammock, a good meal, time with friends, it glorifies God — it calls attention to the Creator’s presence and beauty all around us. And when you do all that in a spirit of gratitude, letting the goodness of your world and life conjure up an awareness of God and a love for him, then rest becomes worship.

Even though the Sabbath is about imitation of the God who works and then rests, it’s also a day to remember that we’re not God. We take a day off, and the world gets along just fine without us.

We’re not as important as we think.

The Sabbath is a day to embrace this reality, to let it sink in, to own it, to celebrate it. To celebrate our weakness, our mortality, our limits. To celebrate our God of strength and immortality and limitless power. To rest with him and to rest in him.

That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget . . .

There is a God, and I’m not him.

August 25, 2018

Sabbath: We Rest and We Worship (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , ,

NIV.Gen.2.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Today and tomorrow we’re running an excerpt from an earlier book by John Mark Comer whose more recent book God Has a Name we’ve featured here before. This one is Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human (Zondervan, 2015). John Mark is the pastor of Bridgetown Church, in Portland Oregon.

I Am Not a Machine (excerpt, part one)

In Genesis 2, at the end of the creation story, we read, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

As I said earlier in the book, the creation story starts with God working and ends with God resting. After six “days” of world making, it’s done. The universe is “completed.”

And you think your week was productive?

Then we read that God rested.

Make sure you catch that.

God rested.

God, who doesn’t need sleep or a day off or a vacation, who doesn’t get tired or worn down or grouchy, who is without parallel to any other being in the universe, rested.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want you to remember that we are made in his image. We are made to mirror and mimic what God is like to the world.

God works, so we work.

God rests, so we rest.

Work and rest live in a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). After all, the opposite of work isn’t rest — it’s sleep. Work and rest are friends, not enemies. They are a bride and groom who come together to make a full, well-rounded life.

Sabbath isn’t just a day to not work; it’s a day to delight in what one Hebrew poet called “the work of our hands.” To delight in the life you’ve carved out in partnership with God, to delight in the world around you, and to delight in God himself. Sabbath is a day to pull up a chair, sink into it, look back over the work of the last six days, and just enjoy.

The word rested in Genesis 2 is shabat in Hebrew, where we get the word Sabbath. It essentially means “to stop” or “cease” or “be complete,” but it can also be translated “to celebrate.”

Jews have been practicing the art of Sabbath for millennia. We have a lot we can learn from them. They talk a lot about menuha — another Hebrew word that’s translated “rest,” but it’s a very specific kind of rest. It’s not just a nap on the couch. It’s a restfulness that’s also a celebration. It’s often translated “happiness.” And to the Jews, menuha is something you create. It’s not just that you stop working and sit on the couch for a day every week. It’s about cultivating an environment, an atmosphere to enjoy your life, your world, and your God. It’s more of a mode of being than a twenty-four-hour time slot.

We all need a little menuha once in a while. And that’s what the Sabbath is for.

The Sabbath is a day when God has my rapt attention.

It’s a day when I’m fully available to my family and friends.

The Sabbath is a day with no to-do list.

It’s a day when I don’t accomplish anything, and I don’t feel guilty.

It’s a day when my phone is off, my email is closed, and you can’t get ahold of me.

The Sabbath isn’t a day to buy or sell — to get more. It’s a day to enjoy what I already have.

It isn’t a day to be sad.

Because the Sabbath is a day for menuha — for the celebration of life in God’s very good world.

After six “days” of universe-sculpting work, God rested. And in doing so, he built a rhythm into creation itself. We work for six days, and then we rest for one. And this cadence of work and rest is just as vital to our humanness as food or water or sleep or oxygen. It’s mandatory for survival, to say nothing of flourishing. I’m not a machine. I can’t work seven days a week. I’m a human. All I can do is work for six days and then rest for one, just like the God whose image I bear.

After God rested, we read, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

There are two fascinating words here that we need to drill down on: blessed and holy.

The word bless is barak in Hebrew, pronounced like the [former] president. A barak, or a blessing, in the creation story is a life-giving ability to procreate — to make more life.

God baraked three times in Genesis.

First, God blessed the “living creatures” (the animal kingdom) and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”

Then he blessed human and said the exact same thing, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”

And then he “blessed the seventh day.” So he blesses the living creatures.

Then he blesses human.

Then he blesses, a day? How does that work?

The Sabbath has a life-giving ability to procreate — to fill the world up with life.

No matter how much you love your job or fine-tune your work/ life balance, by the end of the week, you’re tired. Your fuel cells are on empty. But rest refills us — with energy, creativity, vision, strength, optimism, buoyancy, clarity, and hope. Rest is life-giving.

Because God baraked the Sabbath day.

So that’s the first word. One more. Next we read that God made the Sabbath holy. In Hebrew, it’s this weighty, serious word — qadosh. Usually this word is used for God.

God is qadosh. He’s holy.

The rabbis make a big deal about the “principle of first mention,” which, put simply, means the first time you read a word in the Scriptures it’s kind of like a definition. It sets the stage for how you read the word all the way through.

Did you know that the first time you read the word qadosh in the Bible is right here? And what does God make holy?

Time.

This is intriguing. You would think that after creating the world, God would make a holy space — a mountain or a temple or a shrine. After all, every other religion has a holy space. Islam has Mecca. Hinduism has the Ganges River. Paganism has Stonehenge. Baseball has Wrigley Field.

But this God doesn’t have a holy space; he has a holy time — the Sabbath. This God isn’t found in the world of space — in a temple, on top of a mountain, at a spring, around a statue or a monument. He’s found in the world of time.

Heschel said, “The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.” There is a hierarchy to time. Not all moments are created equal.

Some moments are much, much better than others.

For six days we wrestle with the world of space — the hard work of building civilization. But on the Sabbath, we savor the world of time. We slow down, take a deep breath, and drink it all in.

We push the Slow-Mo button.

Yesterday was the first warm, sunny day of the year — it hit 70. When that happens in Portland, it’s like a de facto citywide party. I had a busy day, but there was a brief moment where I was at my house and I had ten minutes to spare before I needed to head out. So I sat on my patio, in the sun, took my shirt off, and just slowed everything down. My goal was to make those ten minutes feel like ten hours.

The Sabbath is like that. It’s a day where your goal is to savor every second. Because it’s holy.

Is this how you think of holiness?

Sadly, a lot of us think of holiness in the negative — about what we don’t do. We don’t get drunk or we don’t sleep around or we don’t watch R-rated movies (unless they are about Jesus or have Russell Crowe in them). And that’s not all bad, but it’s one-sided. Holiness also has a positive side. It’s about what we do.

Later, in Exodus, there’s a gripping story about Moses and Israel out in the wilderness. They are starving to death, and so God sends this strange new food called manna. It literally falls from the sky every morning, and all they have to do is go out and pick it up. With one exception. On the sixth day twice as much falls from the sky. And on the seventh day — the Sabbath — nothing. The sky is empty.

The people are confused when they wake up on day six and there’s an extra bag of groceries, so Moses says, “Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil.

Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.

A holy Sabbath to the Lord.

This language of holy to the Lord is used all through the Scriptures. It can also be translated “dedicated to the Lord.” So the Sabbath is an entire day that is holy, set aside, dedicated to the Lord.

It’s a day for rest, and it’s a day for worship.

When I Sabbath, I run everything through this grid — is this rest? Is this worship? If the answer to both questions is yes, then I delight in it; if the answer is no, then I hold off until the next day.

Because the Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.

Make sure you get the difference.

On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You grocery shop, go to the bank, mow the lawn, work on the remodel project, chip away at that sci-fi novel you’re writing

On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. That’s it.

 

August 24, 2018

Striving With God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
Tags: , , ,

24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”

But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”

27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”

It’s time for another visit at one of the most interesting websites we’ll ever feature here: Chocolate Book with writer Jackson Ferrell. Each day brings a chocolate flavor of the day and a reading for the day (seriously!) and Jackson and his readers are currently in the Book of Genesis. Some of it’s a bit subjective, but it’s clear he’s interacted with this passage before. Don’t read this here! Click the title below:

Genesis 32 – Grappling With God

Today’s PassageGenesis 32

Take your time machine back to late 2003, track me down on the campus of St. John’s College, and ask me who my favorite Bible character is, and I’ll tell you it’s Jacob. Why, you ask? My sophomore self tells you that it’s because God uses him in spite of his faults. In a book of hot messes, Jacob’s debatably the hot-messiest. But God gives him the name “Israel,” makes him the literal namesake of an entire race, and changes him dramatically over the course of his life. Jacob grows both in humility and courage; he learns to leave behind his swindling and cheating and to face the world honestly instead. Jacob’s story is hope for schmucks.

Now, Switchfoot didn’t create my partiality toward Jacob, but they certainly helped. They released their breakout album The Beautiful Letdown in February 2003, and the closing track “24” both encapsulated much of my college experience and helped me get through it. (College was rough.) But there’s a line from that song, “I wrestled the angel / For more than a name,” which is a reference to Jacob’s experience in this chapter. Here Jacob spends a sleepless night grappling until daybreak with an unidentified man, who gives him the name “Israel.” Like Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis 28, it’s one of the events we tend to think of when we think of Jacob. And, fan of both Switchfoot and Jacob that I was, I latched onto it hard.

But frankly, the role of Jacob’s wrestling match in my life does nothing to properly contextualize it for us. We find it in the narrative as Jacob is heading home, knowing that he’ll have to face his brother, who previously wanted to kill him. He sends out messengers to let Esau know he’s coming, splits his family and possessions into two parties to increase the odds of a surviving descendant, and sends waves of gifts on ahead as repeated signs of goodwill and contrition. Jacob’s scared. He knows he’s wronged his brother. But now he’s facing it straight.

In the middle of all this, he prays a remarkable prayer. He tells God, “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant” (10). Jacob says, in effect, “I didn’t do this. You did.” He gives God the credit for his prosperity, and moreover, he admits that he and his garbage behavior have done nothing to merit it. This isn’t the same Jacob who scrambled through his early life to take what he can get. He’s growing, and he’s not done growing yet.

Then comes the part where his family crosses the river Jabbok, but Jacob ends up in a wrestling match that lasts all night.

Who is this guy that he’s grappling with? The text identifies him simply as “a man” (24), who refuses to tell Jacob his name (29). The man gives him a few parting gifts that don’t exactly shed light on the question of his identity, either. Jacob gets a blessing, a dislocated hip joint, and a new name. That name, Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל), comes from the words for “God” and “to strive,” and the man explains: “You have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (28). The NASB notes that “Israel” may be taken to mean “he who strives with God” or “God strives;” for all Jacob’s effort, perhaps we’re meant to understand that God has done all the heavy lifting by working in Jacob. And while we might possibly be looking at a pre-incarnate Christophany here, none of this means that the man was necessarily God.

I’m not sure what to say in conclusion. This is another one of those huge passages that I feel I can’t do justice, even at my best. But in a sense, I don’t need to say anything in conclusion, because the story doesn’t actually conclude here. Jacob’s meeting with Esau still looms on the horizon, and tomorrow we’ll see how that goes. If you know already, try not to spoil it for everyone else.

August 23, 2018

The Good Sense of a Witness and 1st Peter 3:15

by Clarke Dixon

Editor’s Note: Clarke is away this week. This post was taken from the large number available at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, which includes many which have never been published here at C201.

You get past your anxiety, step out of your comfort zone and share your faith with someone. Then come the objections: “But how can you know that you are right and everyone else is wrong? But doesn’t science show that we don’t need a Creator? Aren’t the stories in the Bible just myths? How can you be sure the Bible is reliable?” and on and on we could go (and on and on some do!). So now what?

There are two roads open before us in the face of objections:

  1. Say something like, “don’t overthink it, just believe.”
  2. Say something like, “Good question, one I have thought about too, can I share with you some thoughts on that?” or “Good question, one I have not thought about before, perhaps you will allow me some time to think that through”

What would the New Testament apostles do in the face of objections, would they discourage thinking, or encourage it? The following passage gives us a good indication of what they did:

Paul went to the Jews in the synagogue, as he customarily did, and on three Sabbath days he addressed them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2,3 NET)

There are quite a number of similar passages where Paul ’explains and demonstrates’ the truths of the Jesus and his Kingdom. There is one Greek word behind ’explains and demonstrates’ which according to standard lexicons could be translated with ’discuss, contend, argue, address, reason with.’ We do not get the impression that Paul or any of the other apostles would say anything like “do not think about it, just believe.” Instead they helped people think it through, they appealed to good sense. To the Jewish audience they would argue from the Scriptures (the Old Testament at this point), that the resurrection of Jesus makes good sense. To the Gentile audience they would argue that the Jewish hope and the resurrection of Jesus make good sense, far better sense in fact than pagan myths or Gentile philosophies. When the apostles proclaimed the Gospel, they appealed to good sense.

But doesn’t the Bible teach us to be leary of worldly wisdom, so ought we not to be careful in appealing to ’good sense’. We might quote Colossians 2:8 with this objection: “Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”(Colossians 2:8 NET). However, this verse and others like it refer more to philosophical systems that could be named and were popular at the time, such as Stoicism, Hedonism, Epicureanism,and the like. It is not referring to logic and reason which are gifts of God, indeed part of what it means to be created in his image. That two plus two equals four is true for the atheist, the Buddhist, the Muslim, and the Christian alike, it is a logical statement without reference to any system of thought. In our day the Christian will want to be wary of naturalism, existentialism, communism, and many other isms, but we will always want to appeal to good sense, using the Godly gifts of logic and reason. In fact the Bible teaches us to appeal to good sense:

But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. (1 Peter 3:15, 16 NET)

Being ready with an answer means being ready to share why it makes sense to you to hold the Christian hope. Are we ready to share the reason we are Christians?

We should note here that saying something like “I am a Christian because my parents were Christians and their parents were Christians, and so on” will do nothing to help someone come to faith in Jesus. This is not being a witness to what is true about Jesus, it is being a witness to what is true about your family. If we were brought up in the Christian faith, can we go further and explain why we have chosen to accept and affirm the tradition handed down to us? I once heard a story about a woman who in cooking her first turkey put the turkey in the sink and put the dish rack upside down over it. Her mother asked why she did that and with the response “because you always did,” said “don’t be silly dear, you don’t have a cat.” A tradition can begin for a reason, but when the reason for its existence vanishes does it make sense to carry the tradition into our generation?

It has made sense for me to carry faith in Christ into my generation and endeavour to pass it on to the next. I can point to the experience of Christ in my life, I can point to looking more deeply into Christianity through the lenses of ethics, history, literature, science and so forth. Whatever angle I have come at it, it has always ended up making sense. I have thought it through and am happy when I can help others think it through too.

When you witness to someone and the objections to Christianity start flying, are you ready to walk with them on a thoughtful path? They are worth the effort! To do so just makes sense.

August 22, 2018

Christian Service: Joyfully Rendered or Indicator of Bondage?

Readers here know that every time we pass an anniversary — either by date or a significant number of posts, as we did with #3,000 not long ago — I’ll mention that C201 has offered a fresh devotional daily since its inception. But scrolling through the archives for August, 2013 — only 5 years ago — I was reminded that technically that isn’t true. Stuck in the middle of nowhere I had to confront the reality that unless I covered up by backdating an extra post the next day, there would be what I considered an unsightly gap in my perfect blog attendance record. It would be the end of Christianity as we know it. After all, it all depends on me!

Instead, I let the date roll by and posted this the next day. (I even broke a rule and began with an illustration, albeit one I made up on the spot!)

Ritual Versus Faithfulness

I Cor 4:2 ESV Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

The Henderson Family very rarely misses a church service, church meeting, or church function. They are what a previous generation called “pillars of the assembly;” people you can count on to be there and to do whatever needs doing in the church. A check of Mrs. H.’s pocket calendar shows a church event or responsibility consuming much of 17 of this month’s 31 days.

Some would say they are being faithful, while others would prefer to think they are in some kind of religious bondage. They could certainly use a copy of the book Boundaries, because saying ‘no’ isn’t in their vocabulary. How do you tell the difference between people who joyfully make the church the center of their lives, and people who serve under duress?

II Cor. 9:7a NIV Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion…

The Bible distinguishes between service and giving which are done joyfully and cheerfully versus that which is done under a sense of obligation.

I thought of this a lot in the last 48 hours when it appeared that I would not be able to post a devotional reading here for yesterday, August 17th. I tried to get online using a rather primitive smart-phone, but it wasn’t to be, as the limitations of the phone met the very limited internet access in the remote area where we were.

‘But I haven’t missed a day here in years,’ I thought to myself. Ah, there’s a religious spirit creeping in. The feeling that I must do this; compounded with the feeling of If you don’t _________ it won’t ________. Not a good place to be in. Instead of God being the center, I become the center. It also shows a misplaced appropriation of my place in the building of God’s Kingdom; a rather self-centered, egotistical sense of my own importance.

In fact, scripture describes ministry as more of a symphony concert than a solo recital:

I Cor. 3:6,7 Message Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow.

And then, the worst thought of all, where faulty attitude becomes outright sin: I considered backdating a post to yesterday once I got back online. It wasn’t so much trying to create a false impression of my faithfulness to this, as it was the feeling a curator of a set or collection must have if one of the items is missing. I must restore the museum/gallery to its pristine state. That’s pride.

Matthew 6:1 The Voice Jesus: But when you do these righteous acts, do not do them in front of spectators. Don’t do them where you can be seen, let alone lauded, by others. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Amazing how writing a daily devotional blog can cause one to sin, isn’t it? So what would you tell the Henderson family? What would you tell me?


As it would turn out, I realized the same religious spirit — or addiction to a misdirected perception of how to measure of faithfulness — was plaguing my writing at my primary blog, Thinking Out Loud. So last month, when we were heading for holidays, I deliberately left a gap of seven or eight days. It would have been easy to post things ahead (as we did here and on my book trade blog) but I decided the non-stop streak had become a source of pride.

What’s the equivalent in your life?

August 21, 2018

Role Models Who Live With the People They’re Leading

Several years ago we visited a blog called Biblical Diagnosis and today I decided to check back in where I discovered this excellent article. Click the title to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Starving for Role Models

Role models.

Oh that we could use some role models. Whether we attribute it to modern-day living, or to a more sinister cause such as the fact that the Spirit of the Anti-Christ is already at work, it is hard to argue that today, we hardly know people well-enough for them to serve as role models for us, or for us to serve as such for them.

Yet, it is by this Role Model template that the Holy Spirit of God moved in spectacular fashion in the early church, converting people by the masses and keeping them on the walk of faith. Consider the following text, in a letter that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy wrote to the Church members of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-12 – For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

They reminded the church members of the lifestyle they themselves had when there were among them. Earlier in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, we learn that those members once converted, became followers of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. Here, we read the details of how those three gentlemen preached the word to them. Their preaching were not just words, but a combination of words and a lifestyle that aligned with those words.

How effective do you suppose is this form of preaching, where those you preach not only hear you, but can also see you in action, and acquaint themselves with the practical aspects of your preaching?

Paul says,

For you yourselves know that…

we never came with words of flattery

… we did not seek glory from people, whether from you or from others

… we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children

… we were ready to share with you our own selves

… we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you WHILE we proclaimed to you the gospel

… You are witnesses how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you

… you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God

The Thessalonians knew that all those things were true because they witnessed it. Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy lived right among them, providing the Thessalonians with the most effective demonstration and blueprint for what the Christians life looks like. This is in fact, effective preaching.

To the Corinthians, Paul says something similar

1 Corinthians 2:2,3 – …I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power

He says…“I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”. So it must be that the Corinthians also so how Paul handled himself and exercised his faith in those moments, thereby providing them with powerful practical lessons that they could rely on. The ultimate purpose being…

1 Corinthians 2:4 – …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have to do a better job as being present for each other, that all may see how practically we walk in the Spirit. Much preaching without concrete evidence will only go so far, for the Spirit of God is a Spirit of Actions!

Do you consider yourself a faithful Christian – not a perfect one of course – then to whom do you evidently display yourself, so they may see you, know you, and learn from you?

Are you a great preacher? Do the people you preach – at least those who live in your city – know you just as much for your preaching as for your lifestyle? Or are the people left to suppose what that lifestyle may be?

We are indeed starving for role models. But it need not stay this way.

After all, wasn’t this the commandment of Christ…

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy showed us how exactly we ought to do it. Let us follow them.

August 20, 2018

“They Were Never Saved to Being With”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Again, we’re back at the website BibleKnowledge.com and a look at an interpretation of scripture which is quite common. This article has a long continuation with an examination of several other passages. I encourage you to read the first part here at least, to get you thinking, but you might want to start instead by clicking the title below and then you’ll at least have the remaining parts on your screen to, at the very least, skim over.

“Never Saved”: How Christians misuse Matthew 7:21-23

by Deidre Richardson

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Matthew 7:21-23 is a passage used by Christians to refer to those they believe “were never saved to begin with,” the phrase goes. According to the passage above, there are those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” (v.21), “prophesied” (v.22), “cast out demons” (v.22), and “done many wonders” (v.22), but are not known by the Lord. In the end, the Lord will say “I never knew you.” The words of Matthew 7:21-23, as spoken by our Lord, seem difficult to believe. How could those the Lord “never knew” prophesy, cast out demons, and do many wonders “in His name”? According to Jesus in the verses above, these individuals believed they were saved and called Jesus “Lord,” but they did not live out their faith. Jesus would agree with James when the half-brother of Jesus says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14, 20, 26).

We can understand that it’s not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”; we must also live in accordance with what we believe. There must be a trail of good works that characterize our lives in Christ. After all, believers do have the Holy Spirit, who not only sanctifies them but enables them to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). And yet, it is not right that we use Matthew 7:21-23 to describe everyone who doesn’t endure until the end in faith. Jesus is talking about those He “never knew,” which means that these individuals “never” did anything to show the world they were saved. They never had any good works to speak of that pointed others to Jesus. They never lived the life they claimed they experienced. They were saved “in name only,” to use a phrase with which we’re all familiar.

And yet, there are other Christians who aren’t saved in the end for other reasons. Not every condemned person who isn’t saved is lost in the end because they called Jesus “Lord” and lived like hypocrites. Some former believers were real about their faith; when they depart from the faith, they do so for other reasons — perhaps an unanswered prayer, a sin struggle that they pray God removes, yet He doesn’t, and so on. And there are those that the Lord “knows” for a while, and then they leave due to something such as persecution they endure as a Christian. Some folks do not want the persecution that Jesus says comes with being a follower of Christ. There are other reasons for why Christians depart from the faith, but in the case of Matthew 7:21-23, those who call Jesus “Lord” are those who don’t do what God commands. Remember what Jesus says about those who follow after Him?

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, NKJV)

Those who follow Jesus must “deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Those the Lord says He “never knew,” those Jesus calls “workers of iniquity,” are those that were never saved. They never had a relationship with the Lord because they never denied themselves, never took up their cross, never followed Christ. They only claimed to know Christ. And the most interesting part of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 is that these individuals prophesied, cast out demons, and did other wonderful works in Jesus’ name. They did works consistent with someone who has the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in their lives. And yet, despite all their spiritual giftedness, and the work of the Spirit in prophecy, demon possession, and other works, these individuals were never saved.

When it comes to exegesis, one cannot just take one passage and run with a theological position; he or she must examine Scripture as a whole to determine if one verse is being placed above the rest of Scripture (if Scripture opposes the verse) or if one verse of Scripture is being sidelined because of the remainder of Scripture (is the verse a particular option or for a particular person or group?). Are there exceptional cases in Scripture that are not normative for faith and practice? Scriptural interpretation is not as easy as we often make it out to be.

When it comes to Matthew 7:21-23, the same can be said. We have taken these three verses and plastered them on every particular case where a person falls away from Jesus or departs from the faith. Not everyone who falls away was a “fake believer” who was only masquerading as a Christian.

Matthew 7:21-23 points to those who were never saved, but there are a ton of verses within Matthew’s own gospel that point to the contrary: that is, those who fall away were genuinely saved. To this end, we’ll approach the New Testament to determine what verses out there clash with Matthew 7:21-23. The purpose of this exercise is not to show that the traditional Christian interpretation of Matthew 7:21-23 is wrong per se, but to make the case that we can’t take these three verses and chalk every apostasy case up to “they were never saved to begin with.” We’ll place Matthew 7:21-23 alongside these verses to show that they are talking about different situations, not the same ones. Christians have misused Matthew 7:21-23, but we need to know how we’ve misused the passage…

…don’t stop; if you want to gain a deeper understanding on this, keep going at this link!

(passages examined in the continuation include the parables of the sower and soils, the wise and foolish virgins, the wheat and the tares, Jesus saying ‘I did not know you,” and several other selections)

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