Christianity 201

March 14, 2017

After Suffering for 12 Years, A Woman Encounters Jesus

Kelsey Lewis is currently a full time seminary student working on her MDiv at Emory University in Atlanta. She wrote what follows to be part of an oral presentation, but after reading it on her blog Faith(,) in Words I asked her for permission to share it here. Many of us are familiar with the first scripture portion, but it takes the second one to put it in context. Click the title below to read at source.

Within Reach

The following is a manuscript from a short sermon I preached in my Preaching class on February 23, 2017.

 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5: 24-34

I would like to read one more passage for you. From the book of Leviticus:

19 “ ‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. 20 “ ‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. … 25 “ ‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. … 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge. 31 “ ‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.’ ”

Leviticus 15:19-31

This is not a passage that you or I have likely heard read aloud in church. However, I wanted to lead with it as I introduced you all to our subject today because these laws followed her everywhere she went. In fact, the words in Mark used to describe her condition, “spring of her blood” were a direct reference to this Levitical passage. She—along with every woman of sexual maturity—but especially she, would have been very familiar with such laws. It was this passage that added insult to the injury of her suffering, keeping her in a perpetual state of uncleanness, unable to touch without contaminating.

All three synoptic gospels give an account of this woman’s story but Mark, usually the most succinct, gives us the most details into her background. The passage characterizes her as one who has suffered. And her suffering is threefold:

  1. She suffers bodily from what is a likely a painful condition, which persists for twelve years of her life. Despite having seen countless doctors, her condition continues to worsen.
  2. She suffers financially, having spent everything she has on failed medical treatment.
  3. She suffers socially.

As alluded to in the passage and as was customary, such a condition would have required her to live outside of the city wall, on the literal margins of society and everyone who came into contact with her would have had to go there too to offer a sacrifice in a purifying ritual, and wait until evening to be ritually clean again. The gospel writer would have us know this about her so that we understand the scandal and the audacity of what happens next.

In an act of desperation, she reaches out for Jesus, touching his robe. . . and it works! She feels herself healed inside. As Christ says, it is her faith that has healed her.

More amazing still is Jesus’ reaction to her touch. I can imagine her fear as Jesus looks around for her and she realizes she has been caught and cannot go unnoticed. But he shows no concern for her impurity. In fact, just after this passage—presumably within the same day in the narrative—he goes to Jairus’ home and grasps the hand of a dead Gentile girl, an act which may have set a record for most purity laws broken at once.

In a stunning reinterpretation of the law, Christ not only liberates her from her bodily physical suffering, he liberates the community around her from fear of her impurity. He shows us this: It is not her impurity which goes forth onto Jesus, but his power that goes out upon her touch. It is not her impurity that is the contagion, but Christ’s power which cannot be contained. Impurity which kept her ostracized for 12 years has no power in the presence of God’s holiness.

No matter how far on the margins you are, no matter how unclean or unfit you or others perceive you to be, Jesus is not beyond your reach. In fact he may be closer than you can imagine. You see, a study of this word “suffering” which in this passage is associated with the pain this woman has endured for twelve years reveals that every other use in the book of Mark and 11 times out of 12 in the entirety of the gospels reveals that suffering is connected with Jesus Christ as the sufferer. The Biblical author would have us associate suffering with the suffering Servant himself.

As the author of Hebrews writes in chapter 13, verse 12:  “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”

You see, not only does Christ situate himself so that we may reach him in the city among the “pure” folk, but he comes to us, and inhabits that outside, marginal space with the suffering. That is the power of God’s contagious love over our suffering. God has come down, not to contain Godself to the holy of holies, but as an uncontained, unbridled force, extending far beyond the limits of our social constructs, lighting up the darkest corners of unmentionable pain, even out beyond the city gates where the “impure” and “unholy” reside. In Jesus, God climbs down into our suffering with us and redeems it with God’s holy presence, so that as we reach out, we can be assured that God’s power goes out to meet us.

 

March 13, 2017

Spiritual Drift

This article appears at BibleStudyTools.com. To read it there and read the comments simply click the title below. Chris Russell is an Ohio pastor whose biography states, “He believes that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his ‘spiritual gifts.'” You can also read it on his blog Sensible Faith.

5 Things That Cause Us to Drift Spiritually

Several years ago a friend of mine took his wife and kids to the ocean for a week of R&R. While they were there, they purchased a small, inflatable boat for recreational use on the beach. One day the wife jumped in the boat and launched out into the water to just lie back and soak in some sunshine. After what seemed like a short span of time, she opened her eyes and realized that she was several hundred yards away from the shore. In a panic, she screamed for help.

Only one person on the shore seemed to hear her call, and that was her husband. When he realized her predicament, he immediately attempted to swim out to rescue her. That did not turn out well, because he was soon in need of being rescued as well!

Fortunately the lifeguard was doing his job well that day, and he was successful in rescuing the husband and the wife. By the time he was able to get to the wife in the raft, they were nearly a half mile from the shore.

As I have thought about that experience over the years, it has often made me think about how Christians often drift away from the Lord spiritually. It really doesn’t take much time at all to drift so far from the shore spiritually that one can scarcely even see the land anymore.

As a pastor for the past couple decades, I have noted several key things that tend to cause Christians to drift away from God. Here are five of them:

1)  An Out-of-Control Schedule.

Ephesians 5:16
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

One of Satan’s greatest weapons against our generation seems to be his ability to make good people busier than ever before. We so often sacrifice the best things in life by spending time doing things that are just “pretty good.”

If you desire to walk closely with God, you will absolutely, necessarily have to begin by taking a close look at your calendar. It is likely that you are currently doing too much. And it is also likely that your overly hectic schedule is affecting your relationship with God. So take out your pruning shears and begin to cut out any activities you can that will allow you to focus more time on your relationship with your Creator.

2)  Misplaced Affections

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Be careful not to set your heart on things that really don’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen good people lured away from church life because they have fallen in love with things or activities that have no eternal merit. For example, children’s sports can certainly be a thrilling activity for your kids to pursue. But if those sports begin to adversely affect the spiritual involvement and development of your family, then pull the plug immediately.

3)  Discouragement

1 Peter 1:6,7 1
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

During the past couple decades that I have served as a pastor, I have often watched Satan using his weapon of discouragement to drag people away from spiritual activities. I have seen it many more times than I can number.

When the trials of life cause a person to become discouraged, he often begins focusing on those problems and takes his eyes off of Christ. It reminds me of when Peter walked on the water. He did great until he took his eyes off of Jesus and began looking at the waves beneath him and the clouds above him.

It is important for you to know that when life’s clouds grow dark and your trials become fierce, that is the time to run TO Jesus and not FROM Him.

4)  Abundance

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

We Americans are so fat with our own prosperity that we often make wealth our god and not the true King of heaven. This has also been a recurring theme throughout the entire Bible. People struggle, God blesses them, they become prosperous, and then they depart from God. Ironic, isn’t it?

The chances are great that you probably do not feel like you are prosperous. But the reality is that nearly all Americans are extremely blessed and have more abundance than the vast majority of the population of the planet. If you are an American, you are most likely already a “One-Percenter” (wealthier than 99% of the world’s population).

People of abundance often choose recreation over worship. Why go to church if you could be out golfing, boating, camping, or going to movies or sporting events?

Satan wants us to be prosperous, because our prosperity and abundance often lure us away from our Creator.

5)  Parasitic Sins

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Many people begin to drift away from God, because they have sins in their lives that cause them to feel guilt when they show up at church. And they feel reluctant to pray or read their Bible when they know they have these issues in their lives.

Recently, I stumbled upon the most revolting video I’ve ever seen (through my Facebook news feed). The video showed an eye surgeon removing a parasite from a human eye. I won’t go into detail. That brief description alone is enough to send chills down the spines of many. All I can say is that the video was even worse than what you’re thinking right now!

When I watched that video, it dawned on me that many people have sins in their lives that are damaging them just like parasites in one’s body. And those sins will almost certainly affect your spiritual vision.

The solution here is not to run/drift from God. The key is to confess your sin to God who will restore you and make you whole again (1 John 1:9)!

How have you done in your journey with God over the past year or the past few months? Have you drifted? Now is the time to return. Call out to God before you are so far from the shore than you lose all sense of spiritual direction.


1 In both versions of the original article Chris did not have a reference on his third point. We took the liberty of adding one. See A Diligent Heart or OpenBible.info for other related verses.

 

 

March 12, 2017

A Fractured Gospel

by Russell Young
Although the gospel message has been around for about two thousand years, its understanding remains muddled. The Word has presented that eternal salvation comes through a person’s “doings,” through obedience, and through belief. It seems that many have selected from these the option that appeals to them and have concluded a means of meeting God’s condition so that they might rest their hope in him. The truth is that all three are components of the same gospel truth and they need to be appreciated as such. Belief (faith) motivates obedience and obedience compels the believer to act in ways that are pleasing and acceptable to God.
.
It gets tiresome to attend to debates, written or verbal, about the validity of one component while disregarding the others. The disputes are endless and where eternal salvation continues to be perceived as through a single factor the debates will continue to persist and will achieve nothing except division and lost souls. Time and energy are wasted and confusion is produced as many self-righteously defend their position. Unfortunately, after two thousand years, church practitioners have often become entrenched in reliance upon a singular aspect of the gospel and objectivity has been lost. Consequently, many who now claim to be called to present the gospel cannot even clearly define it. This ought not to be so. Too many people are being left stillborn in churches while others are dying in the deserts of their communities.
.
Jesus taught: “Do not be amazed at this (the Son of Man having authority as judge), for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (JN 5:28─29 NIV; See also 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:2; 12:36; Jn 5:28─29; 2 Cor 5:10) A person’s doings or practices should not be confused with the issue of “works” which applies to salvation through the works of the law. The Lord taught that evidence of faith, a person’s testimony through his or her practices, matters.
.
In Hebrews it is recorded: “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Christ also presented the need for obedience-Mt 7:21; 2 Thess 1:8─9; Rev 12:17, 14:12, Rev 22:14 (KJV), etc. The Lord is the Spirit and one purpose of his indwelling presence is to sanctify the obedient believer and to fit him or her for God’s heavenly kingdom. The believer must be made into the likeness of God’s Son (Rom 8:29) if he is to enter God’s kingdom.
.
Many times the Lord has proclaimed that salvation comes through belief or faith in his person and ministry. However, belief is revealed through the practice of obedience. It is recorded: “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18─19 NIV) Those who do not obey Christ, the Spirit, lack saving faith and will not dwell with him.
.
Faith/Belief resulting in obedience and “doing good” is what saves a person from judgment and into God’s glorious kingdom and presence. Without righteousness, which is the result of God’s “handiwork” (Eph 2:10) and is achieved through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), the confessor must remain forever separated from the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
.
The truth of the gospel needs to be appreciated and clearly proclaimed if the dead are to be brought to life. Confusion is destroying the church of God and making it powerless is a depraved generation. Those who loudly proclaim a component of the gospel as being the necessary and full truth will be accountable for much one day. Those who are confident that they have brought many into the kingdom may find that they, like their sheep, will be shut out from the wedding feast and from God’s holy kingdom. Many false promises through a fractured gospel are being persuasively proclaimed to win the lost to church communities. In the end, many are presenting no gospel at all.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514

 

March 11, 2017

Jesus in Luke on Money: Part 2 – The Rich and the Kingdom of God

As we explained yesterday, through a friend I was introduced to the writing of Don Merritt. We asked him for permission to use two of them for which he graciously agreed, but then I decided to split these over the course of two days, since they were on the same topic. Don is working his way through the gospel of Luke, but his blog also features topical items as well. Click the title below to read this one at The Life Project, and then take a few minutes to look around.

The Rich, The Way and The Kingdom

Luke 18:24-30

Jesus was fully aware that the disciples would be confused after His conversation with the rich man because, as we noted last time, He had blown up a major cultural expectation of the time that the rich were more favored by God than others were. As a result, He begins to teach them, even while the man is standing right there…

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.” (18:24-25)

The rich man hadn’t been overly enthused at the prospect of giving up all of his wealth, and Jesus underscored the difficulty that many have in entering the Kingdom and leaving the priorities of this world behind. Looking at His example here of putting a camel through the eye of a needle, I think we can safely say that He was engaging in a touch of hyperbole to make the point. The reaction of the disciples speaks volumes about the prevailing assumptions of that culture: “Who then can be saved?”

If you notice, Jesus in His answer blows up a second predominant assumption of that time:

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (18:27)

There are two cultural teachings that are being corrected here: First, that the rich are most favored by God, and the second is that a person can attain righteousness by reliance upon their own ability to keep the Law; both of these are false. This second teaching is still with us, sometimes it is obvious, and sometimes it is more subtle, we call it “works”. You cannot earn your way into the Kingdom by following the rules, “doing church right” or by doing good deeds, for you can only enter the kingdom by faith in God through Christ. Can the rich enter the Kingdom? Yes, they can, by placing their faith in God, and not in their earthly possessions and positions.

Peter is beginning to comprehend: “We have left everything to follow you!”  (18:28)

In reply to Peter, Jesus indicates that there may be more than just “stuff” that can get in the way…

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (18:29-30)

Notice the relationships that may also need to be left behind, notice also that they are in the same list as “home”, Matthew has “fields”, which is to say material possessions. The real point is that the follower of Christ must be willing to leave anything behind if it interferes with following Him, for with the Kingdom, you are either “all in” or all out. Aren’t these things that we all struggle with at one time or another?

This is one of those cases when the theology of the teaching is very simple, but living it can be difficult, yet with God, all things are possible. Consider this: The man who wrote Matthew’s Gospel was a tax collector. He was rich, he also had a family, friends and associates, but by the grace of God, he was one of the Twelve, and he wasn’t the only one. Remember Zacchaeus? Joseph of Arimathea? Saul of Tarsus?

With God, all things are indeed possible!

March 10, 2017

Jesus in Luke on Money: Part 1 – The Rich Young Man

Recently, through a fellow blogger who is also a personal friend, I was introduced to the writing of Don Merritt at The Life Project. Because some of his pieces are shorter than what we do here, I asked him for permission to use two of them for which he graciously agreed, but then I decided to run these two over the course of two days, since they were longer and also related. Don is working his way through the gospel of Luke, but his blog also features topical items as well. Click the title below to read this one at source, and then go exploring!

Jesus Meets a Rich Ruler

Luke 18:18-23

This account matches up quite nicely with Matthew’s (Matt. 19:18-22) although Matthew tells us that the rich man was young as well.

Social conventions and customs are a funny thing; they influence most of us in a way that enables us to make sweeping assumptions concerning great truths, even eternal ones, and yet those very conventions change often through history. We should take this reality as a warning to question the social conventions of our time, and this tale is a case in point. In Jesus’ day, as in many other historical periods, it was assumed that most wealthy people were the ones favored by God; why else would they be so blessed? Yes, some were not so ethical in their conduct, but many were good, hard working people, the bedrocks of the community; surely God’s favor was upon them!

What a contrast to those little children in the last scene, those little ones that represented vulnerability and humility. Right after Jesus commented about the little ones, a rich young man walks up to Him and asks a question:

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18:18)

Here’s a guy who appears to have it all, but he apparently believes that he is lacking in the way he has led his life; there is an element of humility here that we often overlook. In the dialogue that follows, we learn more about this young man:

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. (18:19-21)

In Matthew’s account, the man asks Jesus what he was still lacking right here. This young man was righteous, and appears to have good intentions, and as you will see, Jesus doesn’t dispute his claim that he has kept all of those commandments. It would also appear that the man was beginning to realize, perhaps more quickly than the disciples, that merely keeping commandments as was the Jewish prevailing thought, wasn’t quite enough, after all, why else would he have asked Jesus in the first place? Yet, he still seems to have believed that eternal life was contingent upon his ability to do something. Maybe he was right:

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. (18:22-23)

Jesus told the man to sell everything he owned, give money to the poor and follow Him. I cannot over-emphasize how radical this was, for the prevailing thought of those times said that the rich were blessed, worthy and most favored of all, yet Jesus told the man to liquidate and give to the poor. Notice, He didn’t say to give everything to the poor (as some older translations say) but the implication is clear enough. The story ends with the man going away sad, because he had great wealth.

Traditional teaching assumes the man did not do as Jesus told him, but I want to point out that the text doesn’t say so; maybe he did, maybe he didn’t… but he was sad.

This is where we like to bash people who have more than we do; I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this in class discussions and sermons and how many times I have read it, but I would suggest that we should not go rushing into this too quickly. I have known quite a few people who are quite wealthy, rich people, and they usually discover that their wealth, while handy for sure, is also a millstone around their necks; a burden more than a pleasure. Yet once they have it, it is hard to let go of. Even so, let’s not concentrate on those who have more than we do, let’s look in the mirror instead, for there is where Jesus message, and the young man’s predicament resonate:

Suppose Jesus came to you and told you to liquidate everything you have, that’s right dear reader, sell all your possessions, give to the poor and follow Him.

Would that make you happy?

If you answer “yes” to that question, then let’s take a closer look: Your home, your car(s), your accounts, retirement plans, investments, kids’ college funds, the contents of your house… everything. You show up to follow Jesus with only the shirt on your back. Hold on, the shirt on your back is also a possession, so you show up without even a shirt on your back or anything else, to follow Jesus. Are you happy?

More importantly, would you do it?

Maybe we should think carefully before we make this all about pointing fingers at others!

The good news is that we are still in that section where the instruction is for the disciples, and in the next part, we will see what Jesus has to say to them; will it get easier? Well, you’ll have to come back next time to find out!

March 9, 2017

Useless in Laodicea: Revelation 3

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: ,

by Clarke Dixon

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14)

And so Jesus would prefer you were an atheist rather than a lukewarm Christian, right? Well not so fast! To jump to such a conclusion is to get the analogy from Jesus’ letter to the Christian community in Laodicea all mixed up. It is the water that is lukewarm. Hot water is good and really useful, and also happens to be in great supply at nearby Heiropolis. Cold water is good and useful, and also happens to be in good supply at nearby Colossae. But in Laodicea, the water was not plentiful. Attempts to get water to Laodicea in New Testament times only resulted in a lukewarm water supply. Jesus is not saying here that it is better to be red hot or ice cold rather than a lukewarm Christian. He is saying it is a terrible thing when Christians become useless.

So how does a Christian become useless? The answer to that is hidden in plain sight: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking . . .” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is kept standing outside! He is not welcome in this “Christian” community at Laodicea. We become useless to Jesus when we shut him out:

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

The letter to Laodicea goes on to tell us in what ways we can keep Jesus shut outside. The letter begins this way:

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation.” (Revelation 3:14)

Jesus describes himself as the “Amen.” He is the One with the last word. He can be counted on. Further he is “the faithful and true witness.” So if you want to know God the Father, get to know Jesus: “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7) Jesus is also “the origin of God’s creation.” His involvement in Creation speaks to His divinity. Jesus is not just a son of God, He is God the Son. When we think of Jesus as less than these things, then we push him toward the door. Jesus is kept outside when we misunderstand who He really is.

There is another reason Jesus is kept outside at Laodicea: “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’” (Revelation 3:17) Laodicea was known as a wealthy city, so wealthy in fact that it refused help from Rome when rebuilding following an earthquake in AD 60. However, wealth is not actually the problem here. The problem is the attitude. For the citizens of Laodicea to refuse help from Rome is one thing. For citizens of heaven to claim no need of help from Jesus is quite another. Jesus goes on to set the record straight:

You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17,18)

Laodicea was known for its wealth, its clothing industry, and its medicines, especially eye slave. The Christians in Laodicea, however, ought to be known for their need of, and intimacy with, Christ.

Idolatry is a theme running throughout the letters to the churches of Revelation. There is the idolatry of power; Roman power. The pressure to bow the knee to Roman power was intense. There is the idolatry of sexuality; Roman thinking on sexuality. The pressure to bow the knee to the Roman status quo was intense. There is the idolatry of religion; Jewish religion. The pressure to bow the knee to a particular way of seeing things was intense. But here in Laodicea we come up against perhaps the most powerful idolatry of all. It is found in that expression; “I have no need.” This is the idolatry of self. We force Jesus outside when we ascend the throne. We cannot bow the knee, or be of any use to Jesus if we are “all that.”

There is good news for the Christians in Laodicea, and good news for us:

I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking . . . (Revelation 3:19,20)

The Christians in Laodicea make Jesus want to vomit. This is the more literal rendering of “spit you out.” But he keeps on standing at, and knocking on, the door  anyway. They misunderstand him. He keeps on standing at, and knocking on, the door anyway. They think they have no need of him. He keeps on standing at, and knocking on, the door anyway. Perhaps you make Jesus want to vomit? It turns out that you cannot ruin his appetite:

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Perhaps Someone is knocking on your door right now?

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Read more at Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

March 7, 2017

“They Deliberately Forgot”

Today we return to the writing of Steven & Brooksyne Weber. It is their writing (along with one other) with which I often begin my day. Click the title below to read at DailyEncouragement.net

The Danger Of Deliberately Forgetting

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2 Peter 3:5).

As children grow and began to expand their vocabulary they often unintentionally misspeak, sometimes with funny notions. Years ago we had a six year old foster child named Chrissie who would accidentally break an item or knock her glass of milk over on the table. She would quickly admit to her deed by exclaiming, “I did it on purpose, I did it on purpose” although she actually meant, “I didn’t do it on purpose”! To lessen her confusion we taught her to to say, “It was an accident”.

God calls His people to deliberately remember, such as the Passover Meal under the Old Covenant and the Communion service in the New Covenant. Most Communion tables in churches have this solemn inscription, “In Remembrance of Me”.

Let us consider the phrase in our daily verse, “they deliberately forget”. I have been pondering this condition described by the Apostle Peter that I believe is far too common in the Christian’s life.

People may forget for a variety of reasons including diminished memory as we age. We often hear the phrase or utter it ourselves, “I’m having a senior moment” to describe a lapse in memory. Years ago I was visiting in the office of Paul Hollinger, the longtime general manager of WDAC, our local Christian radio station, and he had a sign that said, “I Have CRS”. Thinking it was some disease I had never heard of that uses an acronym like ALS, MS, etc. I asked what it meant. He informed me it stood for “Can’t Remember Stuff”!

Most of you who raised children dealt with their neglecting to do a particular chore. When confronted, their common answer was, “I forgot.” As parents we knew the truth of the matter most often was that they deliberately forgot since it was something they really didn’t want to remember in the first place. Today’s Scripture speaks of deliberately forgetting as well; a critical spiritual condition that results when our priorities are misaligned.

The King James Version words it this way: “They willingly are ignorant of“. Another version states, “they deliberately suppress this fact” (NET). The specific matter Peter writes of is God’s work at creation. This is an essential Biblical subject many people are ignorant about which has brought about compromise and error, even in the church.

We believe the word “willingly” especially describes people’s ignorance toward God’s creation and many other areas where God’s knowledge and will are revealed. Years ago one of our professors pointed out, “When one is confronted with divine truth, and God’s plan for his life, the issue will ultimately come down to making a moral choice.”

Bible teacher David Guzik makes an interesting application of these truths to believers writing that…”A literal belief in Creation, in Adam and Eve, and in Noah’s Flood are essential for a true understanding of God’s working both then and now. To deny these things undermines the very foundations of our faith. Sadly, today it is many Christians who willfully forget these things, putting themselves in the place of scoffers.”

Dr. Henry Morris writes, “It is remarkable that evolutionism (Darwinianism) which is currently the dominant theory of the origin and meaning of life is based on absolutely no verifiable evidence. There is simply no scientific or historical evidence that evolution has taken place. In fact the most basic laws of science (laws of probability and thermodynamics) prove that genuine macro-evolution could not happen at all. As Peter prophesied, this belief would be based on “willful ignorance“… which is why Paul categorically stated that such “suppressers of the truth” (the 2 major previous divine cataclysmic events—creation and the flood) are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

The first chapter of Romans is the hallmark chapter of Scripture on this topic and sums up the depraved human condition of humans who “deliberately forget”. Paul writes, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Romans 1:18,19).

Today, let us determine that we will not take for granted, nor forget or suppress the truth. Instead let us live under the authority of God’s Holy Word and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Above all we will deliberately remember His supreme sacrifice of love demonstrated to us at Calvary. If we don’t remember and proclaim, who will be there to tell those do not yet know of God’s love?

May I never lose the wonder,
Oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.

Daily prayer: Father, we drink of the crushed fruit of the vine to remind us of Christ’s pouring out His life’s blood so that we might have forgiveness of sins.  We eat the communion bread made from wheat that is cut down, threshed about, and put to the fire. So too, Jesus, the Bread of Life was threshed about to the utmost on our behalf. We deliberately remember and regularly commemorate the act that Jesus commissioned at the Last Supper with the disciples. His supreme sacrifice of dying for our sins so that we might be forgiven is worthy of great honor and faithful remembrance for all the days of our life. Amen.

Daily Encouragement included a live version of the song Mercy, by Matt Redman, quoted above. We chose to add a version which allows those of you who play guitar to follow along.

…as well as Remembrance (Communion Song), another Matt Redman song.

March 6, 2017

The Phrase “With God” Implies a 2nd Participant

Today I’m excited to be able to return to Mary Agrusa at the blog The Thought Just Occured to Me. In the process of choosing today’s selection, I also read three more of her articles, but settled on the one below. Click the title below to read at source, and then navigate to read other items by her.

The Key Ingredient

“Jesus looked at them and said…”with God all things are possible” Matt. 19:26.

Now for a boring grammar lesson. We all should know (unless we slept through English class) what with means. With is: to be accompanied by, to be in association with, to have or to possess. Simply stated it is someone/something PLUS someone/something.

Most expositions I’ve heard on Matt. 19:26 follow this general track. Men are hopeless basket cases, unable to accomplish anything redeemable on their own. However, with God, and by that what is meant is God all by His lonesome, all things are possible. The problem with that understanding is the pesky four letter word with.

According to Jesus, God doesn’t do the possible all by Himself. He’s not the ultimate spiritual Lone Ranger arriving on scene atop his faithful charger Silver. Who then does He work in tandem with? God has His Tonto. In case you didn’t realize it Paleface, Tonto is us!

Not off floating on a cloud somewhere in heaven listening to harp music God, Who is the Key Ingredient, resides in every believer. There’s only one way for Him to get from Point A to Point B. We take Him there. All He performs is done through His people who make up the Body of Christ.

God does everything through you and me. What we deem impossible may sound intimidating, even daunting.  That’s true if we take into account only our abilities and strengths, and not God’s. He is already aware of our capabilities, and just calmly waits for us to finally “be still and know that I am God.”

with-god-quotationPossibilities are co-operative ventures; 100% God and 100% man. Perhaps the reason we don’t see these happen as much as we’d like to is that we’ve removed ourselves from the equation. Doing so never produces the correct answer because we’ve left God with no one to work through. Sans a willing partner, God takes to the sidelines and waits patiently.

It’s time to remove the false mindset that we can ever be separated from God and His love. Christ is in us right now, and vice versa. We’re inseparable. Scripture attempts to repeatedly hammer this truth into our thick little skulls. However, when wrapped in feelings of inadequacy and failure our minds are renewed, but with the wrong information. We wind up living in an altered reality that God never designed for us.

How about you? Based on your strengths, abilities and resources what possibilities (not to mention impossibilities) seem unattainable? Which would you prefer:

1) God shows up and single-handedly makes things happen,
2) You and God work together to perform things you never imagined you could do?

Which do you think He’ll opt for? Next time you quote Matt. 19:26 are you willing to keep yourself in the equation? With Christ in and working through you, can you ever really fail?

March 5, 2017

Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Russell Young

In speaking to those gathered at the Sermon on the Mount Jesus plainly stated, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:17 NIV)

Thought needs to be given to this pronouncement since it is understood differently by different people. Some accept that Christ lived the law perfectly and having fulfilled it for himself he also fulfilled it for them. If this perception is true, confessors can rest secure that the matter of the law has been resolved. However, later in his dialogue he presented that the person who breaks the least of these laws will be least in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:19) There must remain opportunity for “believers” to break the law because no others will be in the kingdom of heaven–those who break it will suffer consequence. His teaching is that the law remains in force for people, including believers, to address. The prophet Isaiah revealed that at the end the world all humankind would be destroyed because [its people] have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. (Isa 24:5 NIV) The Lord has revealed that even at the end his commands and righteous requirements will not have ben relaxed.

Christ ‘s pronouncement was that he had come to fulfil the law. How is he to accomplish this? In the completion of the law rests God’s grace and the fulfilment of the New Covenant. The Lord was resurrected following his sacrificial offering and gave his Spirit –whom he “poured out on us generously” (Titus 3:6 NIV)–so that the law might be kept. Paul has confirmed that Christ is the Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17 NIV) The Lord is the Spirit and as Spirit he will fulfil the law and the prophets. It is not a fulfilment that that is achieved vicariously through the life that he lived while in the body that the Father had prepared in the womb of Mary; it is the fulfilment that comes through obedience to the Spirit as the Lord lives through the believer with that one’s consent. It is for this reason that Christ taught the necessity of obedience (Heb 5:9) and that to the end of the believer’s life. (Mt 10:22)

The freedom of which Paul spoke is from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant (Heb 9:15) and from sins committed while under its domain. The believing one is now subject to “the law of the Spirit of life.” (Rom 8:2 NIV) The believer does not have to accomplish the law and the prophets by himself he has the enlightenment, leading, and empowerment of Christ, the Spirit, to accomplish them as he lives in the believer. Those who rebel against him, as Spirit, will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven, if indeed, they are allowed entry.

Paul taught that it is those who are led by the Spirit who are sons of God (Rom 8:14) and that those who are led by the Spirit are no longer under the law. (Gal 5:18) He also presented that “the righteous requirements of the law [are fully met] in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4) Christ came to defeat the works of Satan and is prepared to live individually and specifically for each person (believer) who will permit his life. The gospel is the provision of Christ so that humankind can “become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16 NIV)

There are implications for all of those who seek God’s eternal kingdom. They are to “[m]ake every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Lk 13:24 NIV) because many will not be able to find the kingdom of God. There is much rejoicing concerning the confessor’s redemption from the law and the eternal hope that is often presented as secured, however, redemption from the law does offer assurance of heaven but is limited to the gifting of the Spirit. (Gal 3:13─14) Redemption is release from the law and from a person’s past sins. Christ must not only indwell the believer but his life is to be lived in the one seeking to experience an eternal hope.

Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jn 14:6 NIV) His “life” is expressed through his sacrificial offering and through his Spirit. Sonship and freedom from the law are only the blessings of those who are prepared to allow his life. Caution has been given for the believer to commit to living death to self in order that Christ might have right to his life. That is, the worldly interests of the believer are to be cast aside and he is to cling to the Lord, to walk humbly in his sight, and to obey regardless of the demands the Lord–his sovereign-might make.

Much teaching concerning the gospel fails to honour the ministry of Christ through his Spirit; consequently, for many he will not be able to fulfill the law and their end will be destruction. Paul taught: “Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

The fulfilment of the law and of God’s righteous requirements is to be completed through the Spirit’s ministry. “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 213 NIV) The truth of the gospel and of the fullness of the ministry of Christ needs to be proclaimed loudly in a day when the misrepresentation of God’s grace has allowed many to live as they wish, leading them into a false hope. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 NIV; See also Rev 12:17)

Christ came to fulfill the law. His sacrificial offering, the Father’s gift of the Spirit of Christ along with his ministry, and his ministry as high priest are all expressions of God’s grace, but eternal life itself, is not. The believer’s hope rests in the ministry of Christ in him and the Lord’s fulfilment of the law for him.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

 

 

March 4, 2017

Maintaining a Distinct Identity

Distinct Spiritual Identity

For a certain period of my formative faith years, I kept running across the phrase, ‘Maintenance of a Separate Identity.’ You don’t hear it much these days, and when I ran it through a search engine it took more than 30 results before I found one in a Biblical context out of the 70-odd results located. (Most of the results were in reference to ethnicity and nation.)

John White, in his book Flirting With the World, relates his experience growing up as a boy in the 1950s. He tells us that his church knew what worldliness was back then: lipstick, make-up, short skirts, bobbed hair, wedding rings and jewelry, movies, and church kitchens. Then he makes this statement: “Church leaders who fought the liberalizing trends of education, affluence, mobility, and urbanization may have pitched the battle in the wrong places, but you can’t fault their instincts. They knew that something vital was at stake: the maintenance of a distinct identity.[source]

I started thinking about this yesterday in the context of God’s revelation to Moses, and in turn his declaration to Pharoah as to what was planned for the final plague that will bring about their release from captivity:

Ex. 11:6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

On the surface, this is saying that the morning after, it will be clear that while the firstborn of all of Egypt’s families will have perished, the firstborn of all of Israel’s families will have survived. It demonstrates a difference that has always been despite the years of assimilation that have come before Moses’ mission to liberate those people.

In Matthew 13:30 we read how it is possible for there to be a people of God existing in the greater world but how God knows who is who:

Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest time. At harvest time I will tell the workers, “First gather the weeds and tie them together to be burned. Then gather the wheat and bring it to my barn.”‘” (NCV)

But I believe the underlined section in Ex. 11:7 above reverberates throughout Israel’s history. If you’ve ever read Leviticus and wondered, ‘Why, oh why all these obscure rules and regulations?’ the answer may be found in God’s desire to see His people maintain a distinct identity; to be distinct from their surrounding neighbors.

Of course, the mark of being God’s people today is not about dietary or clothing laws, though some people would quite susceptible to falling back into such regulation. Instead, we’re told,

“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples–if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NET)

and

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: … he emptied himself… he humbled himself… (Phil 2: 5, 7, 8 CEB)

At the blog Steve’s Bible Meditations, Steven C. Mills writes about God’s Distinctive People (click to read in full):

You can’t be a child of God and a child of this world!

When your allegiance is with God and you belong to Him, He makes a distinction between His people and those who are not. His people receive His protection. God rescues His people! God redeems His people!

Exodus 12 describes the Passover process by which God rescued His distinctive people from the firstborn death plague: “The Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you” (vs. 12;23). Because Israel was God’s chosen people, God made a distinction between Israel and Egypt and, consequently, rescued His people from the plague.

So, the designation of Israel as God’s distinctive people was grounded in God’s redemptive act of the exodus of Israel from Egypt. God rescued Israel from the grip of Pharaoh! God redeemed His people!

The Apostle Peter reiterates that even today the distinction of being God’s people is the result of receiving God’s mercy.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NASB).

Now, God is still in the rescue business today. He still delivers His people from the grip of this world. And, when God redeems you, you become a distinctive person because He sends His Spirit to dwell in you.

The Spirit helps you maintain your distinctiveness by consecrating you to God and His way and strengthening you to remain separate from the world and its ways. And then the Spirit empowers you to proclaim God’s redemption to others!

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself.. (Psalms 4:3, NASB)


Related posts at C201:

  • Looking at the Amish (August 5, 2010) with song Refiner’s Fire by Brian Doerksen
  • Set Apart (February 14, 2013) with devotional by Charles Price

March 3, 2017

Devotional for 3/3: The Trinity

Someone pointed out the coincidence (if that applies) that a major motion picture about the Trinity is releasing on 3/3. That got me thinking that perhaps we could look back at this topic as it has been discussed here.

In November of 2014 we began with a quote from Tozer:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

and then continued to look at “who does what.”

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13     By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
        by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
    and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The article continues as a scripture medley worth checking out… continue reading here.

In July, 2013 we looked at the idea of “One What and Three Whos” with this item by C. Michael Patton:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Spirit of GodSince there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos…

For more on the idea of a hierarchy within the Trinity… continue reading here.

In February of 2011, we offered “The Trinity Collection,” to go-to verses in which all three members of the Godhead are referenced:

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIrV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18 TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2 NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the longer passage at I Cor. 12: 4-13.

That’s pretty much the entire piece… read at source here.

Also in February, 2011, we had a discussion at Thinking Out Loud and noted that

…four of the seven statements in the National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith which specifically refer to God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, of which the first is primary for this discussion:

  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

(For Canadian readers, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Statement of Faith is identical.)

For that article… continue reading here.

Finally, in January of this year, here at C201 we quoted Fred Sanders on Trinitarian Praise:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning. There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory (singular because, to gloss the Athanasian Creed, there are not three glorious, but one) had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise. To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world “as it is now” with triune glory “as it was in the beginning.” All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of a glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity. Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: “Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:3–14, condensed).

For more of that article… continue reading here.

March 2, 2017

Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason

Do an image search for Wesleyan Quadrilateral and you'll find various attempts to explain it.

Do an image search for Wesleyan Quadrilateral and you’ll find various attempts to explain it. I’m not sure the one on the bottom left is what Wesley had in mind.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace – Eph 1:17 ESV

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.Colossians 1:13-14

And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:24-26 ESV

With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. – Hebrews 9:12 NIV

Capt. Michael Simpson is an officer in The Salvation Army in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. He wrote this originally for the local newspaper there as part of a rotation where area pastors and church leaders contribute a weekly article.

Some days I just have to pinch myself

There have been moments over the past few months when I have suddenly had the feeling I exist in an alternate reality. I won’t use this space to talk about “Red vs. Blue” or “The Left vs. The Right,” or even about “facts.” What does concern me? What does cause me to pinch myself at times; the concepts of critical thought, truth and its reverse…“post-truth.”

Back in November of 2002 I had the task of writing a paper for my very first theology class in seminary. The title of this paper was simply, God as Redeemer. With the birthing of The Salvation Army in Victorian England and its grounding in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, it only made sense that I would apply a new-found tool of my critical thought/theological tool box in approaching and writing the paper; the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. In this method, tradition, experience, and reason are employed, while being subject always to scripture, when forming and applying our theology. Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority.

The purpose of that essay was to look at the redemptive nature of God, specifically the idea of God as redeemer, working through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what that means for humanity in this present age. First of all, what did the biblical story, and especially its focus on Christ, have to say concerning redemption? Secondly, how has the church throughout its history understood Christ as its redeemer? How is the notion of redemption viewed in our present context, both personally and communally? Lastly, what difference does the idea of redemption make in the personal and corporate life of Salvationists, or all those who identify with the Church.

While I will refrain from answering these questions in my remaining words I will put forth a challenge. That challenge is to think critically. Think critically regarding all that goes on around you in these days. When you read a news article or listen to a radio program… think critically. Apply these 4 “lenses”, if you will, in how you view and then respond. What does scripture say? What about tradition? Experience? What does reason have to say? At times I am guilty of allowing myself to get caught up in popular thought without really thinking for myself; without basing my response in truth. Ah, there it is… truth! My dislike of a truth does not make it less truthful. We understood this in grade school… but today… this is why I need to pinch myself sometimes.


After checking our archives, I realized we haven’t discussed the quadrilateral here and only briefly at my other blog. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, or Methodist Quadrilateral, is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist scholar Albert C. Outler.

This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripture, tradition, reason, and Christian experience.

Upon examination of Wesley’s work, Outler theorized that Wesley used four different sources in coming to theological conclusions. Wesley believed, first of all, that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in “scripture” as the sole foundational source. The centrality of scripture was so important for Wesley that he called himself “a man of one book”. However, doctrine had to be in keeping with Christian orthodox “tradition.” So, tradition became in his view the second aspect of the so-called Quadrilateral. Furthermore, believing, as he did, that faith is more than merely an acknowledgment of ideas, Wesley as a practical theologian, contended that a part of the theological method would involve “experiential” faith. In other words, truth would be vivified in personal experience of Christians (overall, not individually), if it were really truth. And every doctrine must be able to be defended “rationally.” He did not divorce faith from reason. Tradition, experience, and reason, however, are subject always to scripture, which is primary.

Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority.


wesleys-quadrilateralFurther reading: Travel back to 2009 and explore the elements of the quadrilateral as flour, milk and shortening, baking powder and salt. The author contends that like the recipe for baking powder biscuits, the elements are combined in different amounts.

March 1, 2017

God Draws a Picture of Himself

Ever asked a kid to draw a picture of himself or herself? We heard a story many years ago about a very young child who was denied admittance to a prominent school because they couldn’t draw such an image.

Describing yourself can be a difficult task. Some people have no problem writing a resumé and boasting of their accomplishments, while some find it a challenge to talk about themselves.

Pause for a moment and think about this…what do you think God would say if he were drawing a verbal picture of Himself?

…So how does God talk about God?

I recently got an update from someone where I live who is off working for a ministry organization; “He is who He says He is, and Exodus 34, where God describes His character in the Bible for the first time, reminds us of this.

I decided to check out this passage and I offer it to you here in bullet point form. But first, The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke…” I can hear Moses saying, “Oh…yeah…sorry about that.” It is a rather comedic moment, though not quite as comedic as Aaron’s answer as to where the golden calf came from; the thing that causes Moses to lose it and break the tablets in the first place. But I digress. Then:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord,

  • the compassionate and
  • gracious God,
  • slow to anger,
  • abounding in love and
  • [abounding in] faithfulness,
  • maintaining love to thousands, and
  • forgiving wickedness,
  • [forgiving] rebellion and
  • [forgiving sin. Yet
  • he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
  • he punishes the children and
  • [he punishes] their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I’ve never formatted a Bible verse quite like that and I trust the formatting doesn’t offend anyone, but we see here 12 characteristics or traits of God’s self-description.

Take a few minutes to slowly re-read that list and think about the God-picture that you have, or that of your friends, neighbors, relatives or co-workers.

Matthew Henry notes 3 primary things God says in this passage:

1. That the God with whom we have to do is a great God.
2. That he is a good God
3. That he is a just and holy God.

It is the second and third aspects of this that seem to confound readers today. Henry notes:

His greatness and goodness illustrate and set off each other. That the terror of his greatness may not make us afraid, we are told how good he is; and, that we may not presume upon his goodness, we are told how great he is. Many words are here heaped up, to acquaint us with, and convince us of, God’s goodness, and to show how much his goodness is both his glory and his delight, yet without any tautology.

Of God’s goodness he notes:

(1.) He is merciful.
(2.) He is gracious.
(3.) He is long-suffering.
(4.) He is abundant in goodness and truth.
(5.) He keeps mercy for thousands.
(6.) He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.

Of his justice, Henry writes:

(1.) He will by no means clear the guilty.
(2.) He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.

The last point may be a stumbling block for many. Henry writes:

He may justly do it, for all souls are his, and there is a malignity in sin that taints the blood. He sometimes will do it, especially for the punishment of idolaters. Thus he shows his hatred to sin, and displeasure against it; yet he keepeth not his anger for ever, but visits to the third and fourth generation only, while he keepeth his mercy for thousands. [underlining mine]

What happens next?

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

 

 

 

February 28, 2017

The Sufficiency of God’s Grace

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

We call this Christianity 201. If there’s a Christianity 301 that some of you would want to move on to, you can’t do much better than K.W. Leslie‘s blog. The articles are in-depth, he also does his own translations of passages, but it’s also — as in today’s example — not so deep that it doesn’t connect with practical issues. In today’s case that’s what he sees as the theological deficiencies of some popular worship choruses.

This article is packed with insights, but hey, it’s a short month; we didn’t want to shortchange you.

We always encourage you to read these pieces at source, but today there’s a couple of elements we can’t reproduce here anyway, so now’s a good time to click the title below.

God’s grace is sufficient: What we mean, what Paul meant.

 We use “sufficient” to mean God’s salvation or provision. Paul meant neither of those things.

One really good example of an out-of-context bible phrase is the idea God’s grace is sufficient. Sometimes phrased, “Your grace is enough for me,” or “His grace is sufficient” or if you wanna put the words in God’s mouth, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” People don’t even quote the entire verse; just the “grace is sufficient” bit.

And when we quote it, we mean one of two things.

Most of the time it’s used to state God’s grace is sufficient for salvation. It’s a reminder we humans can’t save ourselves from sin and death, no matter how many good deeds we do; and that’s fine ’cause God does all the saving. He applies Jesus’s atonement to our sins, takes care of it, forgives us utterly; all we need is God’s grace. It’s sufficient. It does the job.

Great is your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner’s heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart
So remember your people
Remember your children
Remember your promise, oh God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
—Matt Maher, “Your Grace Is Enough,” 2008

Is this what Paul meant by “grace is sufficient”? Not even close. While the idea we’re entirely saved by God’s grace is entirely true, the basis for this idea isn’t at all the verse where we find the words “grace is sufficient.” It comes from other verses, like “By grace you have been saved,” Ep 2.4, 8 NIV —not good works. There’s more to say about that, but I’ll do that later.

The rest of the time, “grace is sufficient” is used to say God will provide all our needs. ’Cause he’s gracious, generous, watches over us, answers prayers, cures our illnesses, guides our steps: We figure when we have God, we don’t need anything else. A self-sufficient person doesn’t need help, and neither does a God-sufficient person, ’cause God has us covered. Different worship song:

Jehovah Jireh, my provider
His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh, my provider
His grace is sufficient for me
My God shall supply all my needs
According to his riches in glory
He will give his angels charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me
—Don Moen, “Jehovah Jireh,” 1986

Horrible pronunciation of YHWH-yiréh aside, which I remind you isn’t one of God’s names but a name of an altar, Ge 22.14 the problem is this also has nothing to do with what Paul meant by “grace is sufficient.”

But you know how songs are. Once a catchy one gets in your head, it’s hard to shake the song away… much less the inaccurate bible interpretations which come along with it. Just because K-LOVE plays it twice an hour, doesn’t mean it’s theologically sound: It’s a radio network, not a church. They’re not pastors; they’re programmers. They’re here to entertain Christians, not disciple us. They don’t know any better. All the more reason we gotta be careful about Christian music.

But I digress. Time to get to the context.

The thorn in the flesh.

Paul and Timothy wrote 2 Corinthians together, although likely in the capacity of someone dictating, and someone taking dictation (and adding suggestions where helpful). And for a few chapters, Paul spent a bit of time “boasting,” as many translations put it (I prefer to translate kavháomai/“speak loud” as “emphasize”) about his experiences as an apostle, and with God. As he should; testimonies are important.

So the folks of Corinth might emphasize all their personal gain, financial success, and other worldly prosperity they had as a result of becoming Christ. Paul chose instead to emphasize all the suffering and degradation he went through. Because prosperity may be nice, but God-experiences are lasting.

Anyway, one of the things Paul emphasized was his “thorn in the flesh,” as the KJV puts it. He described it thisaway.

2 Corinthians 12.6-10 KWL
6 When I want to emphasize things, I won’t be foolish:
I tell the truth, and I don’t spare details.
Otherwise one might consider me greater than what they see of me, or hear from me,
7 and they or I might exaggerate my revelations.
In order that I’d not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given me:
a satanic messenger, which’d jab me so I’d not exalt myself.
8 I called on the Master thrice about this, so he’d pull it out of me.
9 He told me, “My grace is holding you back. Power is fulfilled by weakness.”
For this reason I gladly emphasize my weakness—so Christ’s power can dwell in me.
10 I’m thrilled with weaknesses!
With smackdowns, deprivations, persecution, getting squeezed for Christ:
When I’m weak, then I’m strong.

The KJV’s word sufficient is, to be blunt, a mistranslation. It’s what the word arkei/“holds back” could mean—if you’re using in the sense of “strong enough to hold back,” or “sufficient to hold back,” as Sophocles and Thucydides sometimes used it. In its passive sense, it means to be satisfied or content, which is how it appears half the time in the New Testament. But ordinarily: Holds back. Supports.

“My grace is sufficient for thee” 2 Co 12.9 KJV tends to get interpreted, “I’ve given you all the grace you’re ever gonna get. You have plenty. Suck it up, princess. You can tough out that ‘thorn in the flesh’ just fine.”

Doesn’t sound at all kind and encouraging of Jesus—which is entirely out of character. Which should tip us off we’re projecting our own lack of sympathy upon our Lord.

But this interpretation doesn’t fit the context of the text. As Paul said, the “thorn in the flesh” was holing him back. Keeping him from exaggerating his accomplishments. Keeping him from concealing some of the embarrassing, or less-impressive, details of his ministry. Keeping him from acting the fool. Human nature is to show off. But Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” wouldn’t let him. It was keeping him from going astray.

People miss this fact because Paul described the “thorn,” whatever it was—a literal thorn, a form of arthritis, an injury which never healed right—as an ánghelos sataná/“satanic messanger,” or “Satan’s angel,” as The Message puts it. They think Satan was literally behind this thorn. As, quite likely, Paul did too, when he first encountered it: “Ow! What the…? What’s this stopping me from preaching? Gotta be the devil.”

But when Paul brought it to Jesus, to his surprise Jesus took credit for it. He was holding Paul back—graciously. And because we humans fixate on the devil too much, many an interpreter skips right over this fact.

Jesus didn’t want his apostle to sin. Or dance on the edge of sin. He knows exactly what can corrupt and ruin us—so he’ll stop us from going there. In Paul’s case, Jesus stopped him by letting this thorn poke him whenever he crossed the line. Three times Paul cried out to Jesus, because three times Paul crossed the line. (Like he said in verse 6, he’s not sparing details!) Jesus’s response was, “I’m not taking it away. It’s keeping you on the straight and narrow. You have to remember exalting yourself doesn’t grow my kingdom any. Humility does.”

Paul definitely learned that lesson. As a result he emphasized weakness—in contrast to the Corinthians boasting of their strength.

“Grace is sufficient”—when we mean salvation, or supplying needs.

Now back to grace for salvation. Told ya I’d do this later.

When Christians talk about how God’s grace is sufficient for salvation, it’s true. It’s entirely true. Grace is all we need to be saved. There’s nothing at all wrong with teaching this idea.

The problem is when newbies try to look up “grace is sufficient” in the bible… and get confused, ’cause the “grace is sufficient” verse is about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, and says nothing about salvation. Or when they ask you, “Where’s it say, ‘God’s grace is sufficient’?” and you correctly respond, “In 2 Corinthians 12”—but you don’t realize why they wanna look up that verse, and they wind up blaming you for misquoting the bible.

So remember: When people ask you to help ’em find a verse, always ask why. And if they’re going for the wrong verse, or they’re planning to use a verse wrong, redirect ’em to the right verse. You wanna prove we’re saved by God’s grace alone? You point ’em to Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2.8-10 KWL
8 You’re all saved by his grace, through your faith.
This, God’s gift, isn’t from you, 9 isn’t from works; none can boast of it.
10 We’re his poetry, creations in Christ Jesus,
for doing the good works which God preprepared. We should walk in them!

Likewise when Christians talk about how God supplies all our needs: It’s true. It’s entirely true. Jesus taught us to not worry, focus on his kingdom, and God’ll take care of the balance. Again, nothing wrong with teaching this idea. The problem is when people ask, “Where’s it say, ‘God’s grace is sufficient’?” and we again point to 2 Corinthians 12. You want a proof-text, you go to the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6.31-34 KWL
31 So stop worrying. Stop saying, ‘What can we eat? Drink? Wear?
32 Every nation seeks them. Your heavenly Father knows these are all your needs.
33 First seek God’s kingdom, God’s righteousness,
and all these things will be handed to you.
34 So stop worrying about tomorrow: Tomorrow has its own worries.
The evils of the day are plenty.”

YHWH-yiréh is our provider—but we don’t take that idea from 2 Corinthians.

To clear up the confusion, perhaps we oughta use different language than “God’s grace is sufficient.” You see, anyone who plugs “grace” and “sufficient” into a search engine is gonna wind up in 2 Corinthians. They might realize you didn’t mean that particular passage; then again they might not. That’s the usual problem with newbies: They don’t know any better.

So you, as the wiser Christian, might do better to say “God’s grace is plenty,” or “God’s grace is all we need,” or “God’s grace abundantly provides.” Something other than the bible-y sounding “God’s grace is sufficient.” Break the habit. Work on that self-control.

February 27, 2017

The Importance of Names

Today we’re paying a return visit to Jeremy Serrano who we connected with briefly here about a year ago. Jeremy is currently the Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Concord, CA.  Before that he was a Youth & Family Minister for 14 years. And his name is not Joshua, as you’ll learn in a minute!  Click the title below to read this and many other articles at his blog.

What’s in a name?

I just heard a very thoughtful Pastor (Gypsy Pastor) ask the question, “I wonder why we get so wrapped up in proper names?”

I think it’s a question worth asking.  I have to confess, I do find myself getting wrapped up in proper names. I think proper names are important; when I use proper names, its because I want to show respect to the person who has given me their name.

I appreciate when I am in an environment where people can self-identify using the name they want to be called, the gender they wish to identify as, the pronouns they want others to use about them. I think names are important because they tell others how they want to be identified.

I know a tiny bit about multiple names.  As a twin I go by two names.  If you call out my name, or my twin brother’s name, in a large crowed of people, I will respond to both.  Not because I’m my brother, but because I understand that other’s may be making an honest mistake.  I am never bothered when people call me by my brother’s name unless they’re being rude and are trying to tell me that I am my brother.

We leave room for everyone to self-identify, yet we seem to have trouble with that when it comes to God. God has chosen to reveal God’s-self in a specific way, yet we seem to just give only a slight nod to that and say, “there must be more.”  So instead of focusing on how God has chosen to reveal Gods-self, we see similarities in other religions and proclaim “Look, God is there too.”  I am not denying that God is at work in other places, at the same time, we seem to neglect the place God has promised to be revealed, and that is through Jesus.

Proper names are important because they identify and differentiate the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from Ba’al, Molech, Ashtoreth, and for all you Game of Thrones fans—The Many Faced God and Lord of Light.

christians-praying-to-allahOn the one hand, Christians praying to “Allah” should be no big deal—we’ve been doing that for thousands of years—Allah is God in Arabic.  On the other hand, if by Allah we mean the God of Islam then there’s something that needs to be clarified. The God of Islam is not the same God revealed in Jesus Christ nor are the Gods’ of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism (among others).

In fact, it’s offensive to many in those other religions to claim that they worship the same God we do—Jesus by another name.

So, I think it’s important that we allow God to self-identify, as Christians believe God does in Jesus.

We as Lutherans have a ground up, earth to heaven, physical to metaphysical way of doing theology. We begin all of our understandings about God through God’s self-relation in Jesus Christ who we believe is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1).

Jesus is God on earth according to scripture.  When we look at Jesus way of being in the world, we are looking at God’s way of being.

For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9)

He [Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb 1:3)

Likewise we know who we are to follow as God’s revelation.  We follow Jesus because we believe that he is God’s self-disclosure to the world, especially in his act of sacrificially love.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son [Jesus]… (Heb 1:1)

It is to this God. This self-revealed, specifically named God, that we pray, “Hallowed be thy name.”

When we use a name for God from other religions and call all God’s the same we are no longer identifying God in the way God chose to be self-identified.  We are not taking God’s self-revelation to heart.

I think names are important and I get wrapped up in proper names because I want to show respect to the person named, including God.

With all that said, I don’t have a problem referring to God as the Great Spirit, or Creator, or Olodumare, or Waengongi. Let us be clear in what we are doing though—we are using foreign names and appropriating them to identify the God revealed to Abraham and Moses, who came to earth as Jesus, and who is the One God now and forever.

« Previous PageNext Page »