Christianity 201

October 21, 2018

The Ten Commandments in the New Testament

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

by Ruth Wilkinson

A group of us decided recently to read Andy Stanley’s book Irresistible, which is the focus of some controversy right now. And, yeah, I found it somewhat challenging.

Challenge accepted. If my life is not to be governed by, for example, the Ten Commandments, but I know that they were there for a reason at the time, I needed to find out for myself how those principles and taboos turned up in the teachings of Jesus and in the letters to the early church.

Whether, and if so how, they were taught and exemplified by my brothers and sisters in The Way.

Here’s what I found:

***

You have heard it said:

Do not have other gods besides Me.

And?

  • Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

  •  From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”

 John 6:66-68

So?

I look only to Jesus, and through Him to the Father.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

And?

  •  “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:21, 22

  • The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.

Acts 17:24, 25

So?

I’m called to avoid worshipping things I can touch and shape, things that are created by the One who created me. Even when those things are in my bank account.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.

And?

  • Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Mark 9:37

  • “I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”

John 15:16

So?

If I am called by His name, I act in His name. And in His name I welcome, embrace, grow and bear fruit.

***

You have heard it said:

 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labour six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work.

And?

  • Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

  • Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

So?

I’m not obliged to sit idle on a particular day, but a day has been carved out for me to be free to rest. And the greatest rest of all is to be found in following the one who calls me.

***

You have heard it said:

Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

And?

  • Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honour.

Romans 10:12

  • Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:27

So?

The family I find myself in, the family of the Church, is one in which I have the joy and the challenge of stepping back from my own self importance, and learning to serve, to honour, to elevate those around me. Especially the vulnerable.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not murder.

And?

  • “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder,and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

Matthew 5:21-22

  • None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name.

1 Peter 4:15

So?

To indulge in the luxury of hatred not only wounds those around us, it wounds us. We carry the name of Christ. And His love is our standard.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not commit adultery.

And?

  •  “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Mark 10:6-9

  •  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28

So?

Adultery is a broken covenant. A tearing of flesh. A death of the heart. I have no right to kill a living promise.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not steal.

And?

  • The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Ephesians 4:28

  • But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”

Luke 19:8

So?

Honest work is an opportunity to share my time, my ability and my earnings. A chance to err on the side of relationship and generosity.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not give false testimony against your neighbour.

And?

  • You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:43

  • Since you put away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbour, because we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:25

So?

I put away dishonesty and speak truth, because my job is, as far as I am able, to love and to live in peace with my ‘neighbour’, which means everybody.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not covet your neighbour’s house…. or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

And?

  • Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them.

Mark 11:24

  • I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.

Philippians 4:12

So?

I stop looking around to see what I might be missing out on, and start looking up to the Father for what I actually need.

***

March 30, 2016

How Easter Explodes a Religious Myth

•••by Clarke Dixon

Christianity, and religion itself, is often seen to be something helpful. So, for example, it can provide a crutch for those moments you may feel weak. It can provide a belief system for those moments that you need to know there is more to life than what you can see. It can be something you pay attention to for a few moments in a day for the sake of your spiritual health, kind of like an exercise program for your soul. It can provide a good dose of morality for your day.

All these things are helpful, but they all have something in common: they relegate Christianity to the sidelines of your life. They make Christianity something that you can put on the back burner until the time comes you might have need of it. Worse, they turn Christianity into something optional, so that if your spiritual and religious needs are met some other way, then okay, leave church attendance and Jesus following for those who are into that kind of thing. Easter Sunday explodes the myth that Christianity is a religion that can exist on the sidelines of our lives. How so?

It is often claimed that the early Christians invented a religion that had not too much to do with the actual historical Jesus. However, in our recent sermon series we have been looking at how the writers of the four Gospels were either eyewitnesses themselves (Matthew, John) or were very intimately connected with eyewitnesses of the events and key Person they describe (Mark, Luke). Additionally the Gospels were written not long after the events described, indeed early enough that what was written could be checked against what eyewitnesses were saying. Now let us venture beyond the Gospels to consider something that was written even earlier by Paul. In fact many Biblical scholars conclude that Paul was quoting an oral tradition that went back even earlier, possibly a baptismal affirmation. I have highlighted the possible “confessional”:

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1st Corinthians 15:2-8 emphasis mine)

The earliest traditions about Jesus were not about his being a good teacher, with later traditions adding in the supernatural bits. The earliest traditions point to the supernatural, in fact they speak of the resurrection of Jesus. As Paul points out to the Christians he is writing to in Corinth, most of those who had seen Jesus following his death and resurrection were still alive – so you can still check the story out with them.

It is fascinating also, that Paul does not mention that Jesus first revealed Himself to the women by the empty tomb. The fact that women were the first eyewitnesses is somewhat embarrassing to the still very patriarchal society of that day. In that time and place if you wanted to invent a religion based on a fabricated resurrection, you would not call upon women to be the first witnesses. Nor would you call upon Mark and Luke to write Gospels. These things speak to the genuine nature of the eyewitness testimony.

These eyewitnesses of the Risen Jesus were not going about trying to start a new religion. They were going about telling everyone about all they had seen. They were not fabricating Jesus, they were responding to Him. They responded with repentance. They responded with prayer and lots of it. They responded with reading the scriptures they had at that time, what we call the Old Testament, with their eyes open to seeing Jesus in them. They responded with sharing the Good News of all that had happened and with all that God was doing and had promised to yet do. Christianity from the get go was not a new religion, but a response to the Person of Jesus the Messiah. It was not a thing to practice, but a Person to know. The earliest Christians were not aware of “taking up religion,” but they were very aware of taking up a cross to follow Jesus. They responded to the evidence of God’s love with love. Christianity was not something “helpful” for them, it was something real and true.

On Easter Sunday we celebrated a baptism in our church. In Baptist circles, baptism is a profession of faith. In baptism one is not saying “I am taking up religion,” or “I am joining this church or that denomination.” Neither is one saying “I am perfect.” Baptism shows the desire, not to take up religion, but to take up a cross and follow Jesus who died and rose again in a very real display of God’s love.

Religion is something that can be put on the back burner. Perhaps many should be taking their religion off the back burner and putting it where I put all the meals I have burned over the years, the garbage bin. Jesus is someOne who died and rose again. He cannot be sidelined. He belongs neither on the back burner nor in the bin. Jesus belongs at the center of our lives. Easter Sunday confirms that fact. And as the early Christians showed by moving their worship from the Sabbath, Saturday, to the day Jesus rose from the dead, every Sunday is Easter Sunday.


Read more from Clarke at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

November 14, 2015

Is The New Testament About a Different God?

Today we were going to pay a return visit to Mike Leake at the blog Borrowed Light, but while there we discovered this article by Nick Horton which covers a topic that seems to be constantly resurfacing. Click the title below to read at source:

Theology Thursday: God Doesn’t Change

“The God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament.”

Have you heard that idea before from unbelievers? Do you hold to that idea yourself?  The idea asserts God changed somehow between the Old Testament and the New Testament times. They see a difference in God in the 400 years between the testaments. The God of the Old Testament is apparently too harsh, where the God of the New Testament is all about grace.

Here’s the problem. Either they believe there are two different Gods, or they don’t understand that God does not change. The doctrine that God does not change is called divine immutability.

Divine immutability: “By his immutability we mean that it follows from the infinite perfection of God; that he can not be changed by any thing from without himself; and that he will not change from any principle within himself. That as to his essence, his will, and his states of existence, he is the same from eternity to eternity.” Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 143.

How can we say God does not change? Recall last week we discussed God’s aseity. That is, his self-existence. If he is self-existent, then he is not caused by creation, but instead has caused creation to be. He cannot be changed by his creation. Look above to old man Hodge’s further clarification. Not only will he not be changed by anything outside of himself, he will not change from any principle inside himself.

“Hold up,” you might say, “I get that he can’t be changed by creation but why can’t he change himself?”

Good question. This gets at the heart of what it is to be God. God is, among many things, perfect. We polish a mirror and call it perfect. We eat a really good meal and call it perfect. We have perfect games in baseball, perfect frames in bowling, and perfect 10’s in Olympic diving. We use perfect as a relative word. That is, “perfect” can be different things for different folks at the same time. God, however, is absolutely perfect.

He is perfect in: his being, his actions, his will, his goodness, his love, his justice, and his wrath. He cannot get any better than he is because if he changes, he is not perfect. The need to change means there is a deficiency in who he is which cannot fulfill his will. We change and react because we do not have total knowledge or total power. If we were omniscient, we would not react as we would already know what will happen. If we were omnipotent, we would not change to accomplish something as the power to accomplish it would already be in us.

God says in the Old Testament that he does not change: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

God says in the New Testament that he does not change: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

“Okay. I guess. But! What about the incarnation?”

The incarnation was the plan from eternity past and not a reaction to the unforeseen consequences of sin. Sin did not cause a “holy huddle” where the trinity met in anguish to figure out what they ought to do next. The Son’s incarnation was the plan from the beginning. By beginning, I mean before creation. There is no change in God, and no surprise in him. Why else did he tell Moses his name is, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) He disclosed to Moses his unchanging eternal nature. He disclosed his deity.

Just the same, Peter tells us God, the Rock of Ages, Eternal One, sent his Son to be our Passover lamb. He did not do this as a reaction to a crisis, but as a plan made before the foundation of the world and manifested visibly and effectually now for the sake of those who are believers in God. God doesn’t change. It may appears that he does as he revealed more and more of himself to us as time went on until we reached the point of it all; Jesus Christ. He progressively revealed himself throughout the Bible. This is not change, this is the ushering in of glory upon glory.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:17–21)

July 22, 2013

New Insights into Zacchaeus

Encounters With JesusThrough the Willow Creek “Midweek Experience” teaching videos, I’ve gotten to hear a number of messages by Wheaton College professor Gary M. Burge. So I was due to read one of his books, especially when I stumbled over a sale-priced copy of Encounters with Jesus: Uncover the Ancient Culture, Discover Hidden Meanings; published in 2010 by Zondervan. Clocking in at only 128 pages — and filled with pictures — finishing this book on Sunday afternoon was no major feat.

With Gary Burge’s voice audibly sounding in my head as I read the book — an advantage to having watched him teach on video — I thoroughly enjoyed his take on five specific encounters Jesus has with:

  1. The woman who was hemorrhaging
  2. Zacchaeus the tax collector
  3. The centurion with a slave who is ill
  4. The thirsty woman at the Samaritan well
  5. The Gentile woman with a sick daughter

In the case of Zacchaeus, I once again found myself in the position of having to potentially un-learn something I had been taught from infancy in Sunday School. Surely anyone who has an encounter is immediately changed, right? Maybe not so much in this case. If the interpretation here is to be considered, then Zacchaeus doesn’t have so much of a before-and-after transformation; rather, Jesus is affirming the person who Zacchaeus has always been, and the “salvation” that has come to “this house” refers more to the saving of Zacchaeus’ reputation in the wider community.

I always thought that Zacchaeus’ speech is a pledge or promise of something he is about to do to make things right, however…

…This is not what Zacchaeus says. His comment to Jesus is in the present tense. “Look! I give half of my possessions, Lord to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone, I repay them fourfold.” Greek has what we call the “future use” of the present tense and interpreters sometimes apply it here. But this is not demanded. Generally these uses imply some immediacy or certainty…

…But many scholars refuse to use it here in Luke 19. We have no suggestion that Zacchaeus needs to repent, nor does the story imply any conversion on his part. He even refers to Jesus as “Lord,” a mark of high honor and discipleship in Luke. As Joel Green remarks, “On this reading Zacchaeus does not resolve to undertake new practices but presents for Jesus’ evaluation his current behaviors regarding money.”

This would be a great revelation to the electrified audience standing on the street in Jericho. Zacchaeus is not what everyone has assumed. He has been honest; he is collecting what is demanded without corruption and abuse, and he is generously giving away large portions of his wealth. The law required that if there was financial fraud, the original amount had to be returned plus 20 percent. (Lev. 6:5)  Here Zacchaeus practices fourfold reimbursement…

When word of this emerges outside, the crowd that thought it had seen one shocking scene for the day now witnesses another. Their notorious tax farmer, who has colluded with Romans, is a man of principle. Rumors of his corruption are evaporating like a mist… (pp. 67-68)

This approach is entirely new to me. And the above excerpt is just a small portion of the insights into this story. He then goes on to discuss the implications of both “Salvation has come to this house;” and that Zacchaeus is a “son of Abraham.”

I’m not saying that this interpretation precludes anything else that you’ve been able to derive from the story. The scriptures are rich in depth. I simply offer this to you as a possibility that may be outside how you originally heard and processed this story.

Other books in this series include: The Bible and the Land, Finding the Lost Images of the Desert, Jesus and the Jewish Festivals, Jesus the Middle Eastern Storyteller, and Finding the Lost Images of God.

April 14, 2013

Controversy in the New Testament

I ran this yesterday at TOL, but wanted it here as well, even though it doesn’t have a specific scripture reference.  The author is popular Christian counselor and author Jay Adams.  Click here to read at source.

Sometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood. All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church. We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.” The term is used pejoratively; but should it be? Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception.
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics.
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me, why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

 

March 10, 2013

Examples of Abudance in the Life of Jesus

This article was a unique find. It comes from FaithMessenger.com, the very detailed Bible study blog of Gregory L. Winfield.  It appeared about a week ago under the title Abundance in the Life of Jesus and the Disciples. As always you’re encouraged to click through to read at source.

Abundance surrounded the life of Jesus everywhere He went. When I became a Christian there were some things that I just knew from common sense had to be true. One of those ideas was that Jesus must have lived a life of abundance while He ministered here on earth.

Most people confuse the words abundance with excess. There is a huge difference in the two. Jesus absolutely DID NOT live a life of excess, but He did live a life of abundance. Jesus was never in a position where he needed man to meet His needs. Rather, He was always in a position to meet the needs of the people wherever He went.

I knew deep down inside that if we have a God who came to earth and was so poor that He needed men to meet His needs materially, we must serve a pretty weak God. I was a babe in Christ, so even though I had these thoughts, I didn’t know how to express them from a scriptural standpoint.

Nowhere in bible do we ever see an instance when Jesus was caught unprepared or in a position where He couldn’t meet the needs of the people.

Now, I can see abundance in the life of Jesus from His very birth in the fact that wise men brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have no scripture to support it but I believe these acts of benevolence continued throughout the life of Jesus.

Signs of Abundance in the Life of Jesus

  • Case Study #1 – Jesus chose the twelve disciples, some of whom we know from scripture were gainfully employed at the time they were called. He called these men to come and follow Him. By doing so, Jesus made Himself responsible for the food and shelter of 13 men (including Himself) for 3 and half years. We have no record of any of the disciples being employed during the time they traveled with Jesus, so I’m led to believe that Jesus was solely responsible for them.
  • Case Study #2 – Seeing that there was a need for a treasurer, Judas was elected to carry the money bag (John 12:6). A treasurer is only needed if there is an overage.
  • Case Study #3 – The bible says that Judas was stealing out of the money bag (John 12:6) but no one knew it.  Now think about it for a moment. If you have a money bag with $10.00 in it and hypothetically speaking, someone stole 10% ($1.00) out of it. With $9.00 left in the money bag, everyone in the group would know that $1.00 was missing. However, if you have a money bag with $50,000 in it and someone stole 10% ($5000) out of it, it would be much harder to detect that a theft had occurred.
  • Case Study #4 – When there was a tax need, Jesus knew exactly how and where to get the money to pay the taxes for Himself and the disciples (Matthew 17:27).
  • Case Study #5 – The bible said that those who crucified Jesus, cast lots to see who would get His clothes. I’m no fashion guru, but I would have to think that Jesus must have worn some pretty nice clothes in order for the people to compete for ownership of them after He was crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Nowhere in bible do we ever see an instance when Jesus was caught un-prepared or in a position where He couldn’t meet the needs of the people.

I understand that some hold on to the thought that Jesus was poor and had very little in terms of this worlds goods. I can agree with that way of thinking only to the degree that He was involved in a travelling ministry, therefore He didn’t have a need for houses and other items that tend to tie us down instead of liberate us.

But when it comes to abundance in the moment, I’m persuaded that in the life of Jesus and those whom He called to minister with Him, abundance surrounded them at every turn.

September 14, 2012

The Great Axiom of Domestic Pets

NIV Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

NIV Matthew 15:25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

When the conversation is lagging, here’s a bit of trivia that is sure to get a reaction, I call it the great axiom of domestic pets (in the Bible at least):

The cat is the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible

Actually, as much as I was told that and passed it on to others, I know that my son kept degus and they and hamsters are not mentioned, at least not by that name. (And my friend Steve would then say, “Did you know you can’t tan through glass?”)

The corollary to the great axiom is something I came up with when my dog loving friends jumped all over it:

But the dog is always cast negatively in scripture.

Well, not anymore.  Keith Brenton at Blog in My Own Eye puts an end to that theory at a blog post he titled:

Jesus, Syro-Phoenicians and Dogs

Click title to read at source

I just got in from walking my dog Roadie, and I’m sure that had some bearing on this topic leaping to my mind.

A few days ago, I made the apparently outrageous suggestion in the comments of a Facebook post that Jesus didn’t call people “dogs” in a prejudicial, insulting way in Matthew 7:6 or 15:25-27; rather that He was quoting a maxim of that era to illustrate the pervasiveness of judging others and how wrong it is.

I was immediately shut down with a chorus of “of-course-He-dids” and didn’t have time to defend my contention right then, and the moment passed. So I will now.

First of all, to call someone a “dog” who is of a different ethnicity is completely foreign to the nature of God, who created all men and all ethnicities. To say differently of Jesus — through Whom and for Whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16) — is to declare that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were less bigoted than the Lord when they declared “all men are created equal.” Preposterous.

Secondly, it is not possible for Jesus to have been prejudicial. He could be judicial, because He knew men’s thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47), but not pre-judicial. He could call certain people “a brood of snakes” (Matthew 23:33) because they were children of the great serpent Satan when they were plotting to kill Him (John 8:39-47). It wasn’t like He didn’t know; He did. We don’t have that knowledge, and we are not equipped to judge. He was. But that wasn’t His purpose in coming (John 12:47); that is His purpose when the day set for it comes (Acts 17:37).

Third: “Dogs” was a term of derision in the first century. See Philippians 3:2 and 2 Peter 2:22 and Revelation 22:15. Don’t miss whom these verses talk about, and what they have done or are doing.

They are not about ethnicity. They are about sin.

“Dog” was an insult. In the centuries before, especially in the books titled “Samuel,” the term “dog” is a term of self-deprecation as well as an insult to others, and I believe it is always used as an insult about peoples outside of Israel. Several translators insist that Jesus even softened the term to “puppies” or “little dogs” when speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman — perhaps lest she imagine real judgment in His tone.

In speaking to this woman and granting the miracle she desires, He refutes what He has said in Matthew 7: He gives a holy gift to someone He has called a “puppy.” How could this not be an object lesson to His entourage, to help prepare them for the idea of the total giving of Himself for all mankind?

Fourth: In Matthew 7:1-6, when Jesus — I believe — quotes this maxim about giving dogs what is holy and giving pearls to pigs, it immediately follows what He has just said about not judging people. If He is not quoting a common proverb as a bad example, then it follows (immediately!) that He was violating the principle He has just given them — how credible is that?

How can we escape the conclusion that prejudice and judging and insulting other people is not Christ-like, and is never something that His followers should participate in?

Finally: Let’s face it. It’s easy to create God in our own image — and doing the same to Jesus is no exception for us. We sometimes want to justify things we want to do by maintaining that He did them in this flesh, in this world. But that doesn’t mean He did them, or said them because it gets us off the hook for wanting to say or do them. We all judge, and we all should not judge. Using the excuse of being like Jesus is no excuse because we do not have all of the authority or capability of Jesus to do so.

Okay. It’s not a Q.E.D., but it is a simpler explanation to me than Jesus saying one thing and then immediately contradicting Himself, and if you respect Occam’s Razor as a sound principle of logic, then I think you’d agree that William would shave with it.

And it certainly is preferable to the theology of a God who called people dogs based on the ethnicity He gave them.

~Keith Brenton

March 21, 2012

Rewriting the Epistles in the First Person

Here’s a really cool idea I’ve never seen before. You take a chapter of one of Paul’s epistles and rework it verse-by-verse into a first person declaration.  B. J. Stockman guest posted this at Vitamin Z, and I’m going to give you about half of it, but you’ll have to click through for the whole chapter.  He calls it “preaching to yourself.”  This could also be a great exercise for a small group, Sunday School class or youth group.

Galatians Chapter Three
  • I will not be foolish and be cast under the spell of trading the true Gospel of grace for a different one.  My greatest remedy against false gospels is to be infatuated and continually familiar with the true Gospel.  (3:1)
  • I will not be impressed with preachers that do not focus my eyes on Jesus Christ and whom do not consistently paint the picture of the crucified Jesus before me no matter how clever and inspiring and motivating they are in their preaching. (3:1)
  • I receive the Holy Spirit by faith, not by works.  I desire more of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, and I receive the Spirit by faith in the finished work of Christ not by doing works. (3:2)
  • I will not pursue sanctification by works, but by faith.  I recognize that justification and sanctification are both by faith.  (3:3)
  • When suffering comes I know that it is not in vain, but that the Holy Spirit is still working.  Therefore I trust Jesus for endurance through suffering. (3:4)
  • God generously provides me with the Holy Spirit and works miracles through faith, not works.  I desire God’s gifts of a greater filling of the Holy Spirit and miracles, and I trust Him to provide them. (3:5)
  • I will not despise the preached word, but will believe the preached word that glorifies Jesus and emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  I recognize that hearing the word is critical in building my faith. (3:1-2, 5)
  • I know that God counted Abraham righteous because he believed God.  (3:6)
  • I am a son of Abraham because I believe the Gospel.  My brothers and sisters who believe the Gospel are sons of Abraham as well. (3:7)
  • The Old Testament Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.  Abraham had the gospel preached to him, as all nations are blessed in Abraham.  Therefore I will not ignore the Old Testament, but trust God’s word and God’s gospel in all the Scriptures. (3:8)
  • The blessing of Abraham is upon me because I am a believer like Abraham. (3:9)
  • When I work from law I am returning to the curse because I do not do all that is written in the law.  I refuse to live under the curse that the law brings, because I am now in Christ. (3:10)
  • It is evident that no one is justified by law-keeping, because in the Old Testament God has made clear that the righteous live by faith.  God’s righteousness is imputed to me by faith in Jesus not by law-keeping, and I am justified before God by faith not by law-keeping.  (3:11)
  • I will not live with the idea that the Old Testament was about law, while the New Testament is about faith.  God has always, in the Old and New Testament, said that the righteous live by faith not law. (3:10-12)

You’re almost halfway through but the best is ahead…. keep reading (click here)

You’ll also find on the same blog examples of Galatians 1 and Galatians 2.

Update, Saturday March 24th: Later on in the week, B. J. added chapters four and five.  We decided to publish both chapter five in the NIV and B. J.’s first person version at Thinking Out Loud in parallel, so you could compare what he wrote side-by-side with the text.

October 18, 2011

Inspiration for Scripture May Have Rested on a Larger Number of Contributors

Ryan Peter lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is the latest blogger to join the Alltop Christianity Page.  This article will greatly expand your view of how the Pauline epistles, in particular, were written. He gave it the much more concise title, Paul’s Use of Scribes, Scriptural Interpretation and Scribes Today.

Many people might not have noticed that Paul, quite clearly, employed the use of scribes in his letter writing. Rom 16:22, for example, shows that Tertius wrote the letter (on paper) but the letter is authored and sent by Paul. There are other references and clues to this all over his letters. Just go to the end of each of them and see if you can find them (for example, Paul highlighting how he is writing a certain part of the letter in ‘his own hand’.)

But now why is this important? I’m going to come at this from three angles:

1) It has something to say about the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, I think.
2) It has something to say about how scribes can be (and perhaps should be) used in the church and apostolic teams today.
3) It has something to say about certain letters where Paul’s authorship is disputed.

I’m a writer myself and something of what I do each day fits into what scribes used to do in Paul’s time (and even before, as we see Jeremiah also dictated his prophecies). Scribes used to either write a letter on behalf of someone else word-for-word (dictated); edit the letters of their client, getting sign-off once they were done; take down notes to get a general idea of what their client wanted written and compose the letter themselves, getting sign-off from the client; or, in extreme cases, write something they know their client would say and send it off without even getting sign off as there was a trusted relationship between them.

In the world of PR and communications this happens in various levels and many people, when they get into this world, are shocked to find out that the CEO of whatever company didn’t actually say what a newspaper article says he said, but rather the PR company wrote what the CEO would (or probably should) have said and he just rubber stamped it. He doesn’t have the time to think of all the right words to say, he pays someone to do that for him. Well, in the old days, kings and queens and Caesars and even the common person (who couldn’t write) would hire scribes to do pretty much the same thing, to various degrees, and Paul himself either hired a scribe or had scribes on his apostolic team. In fact, I think the latter is more probable, given the fact that Tertius feels at liberty to butt in and send his own greetings at the end of Romans.

Now, what does this say about scriptural authority and interpretation?

I’m coming off the back of a very interesting article written by Andrew Wilson from King’s Church Eastborne who thinks that the biggest theological debate for the next 20 years will be about how we read, understand and apply the Bible. It’s a very good article and point, and I have an inkling that the debate might be made a lot easier if we can understand how scribes would have worked with Paul in composing those letters.

The idea of a scribe ‘working with’ Paul has a number of implications for this topic that might not be immediately clear.

Firstly, it means Paul might not have dictated all this ‘word for word’, which means we can’t be too technical when it comes to his use of certain words across all of his letters. Secondly, it may also mean that it was not only Paul who was inspired by the Holy Spirit in writing those parts of the Bible, but also his scribe. Now that says a great deal about Paul’s own scriptural authority and inspiration, apostolic authority today, and a great deal about writers today, but we don’t have space to unpack all the implications in this one post (I might unpack it as I do more research).

That also perhaps wouldn’t be seen as much of an issue within Jewish culture, given the authority scribes seemed to have (many were seen as Rabbis). Now I’ll even take it one step further because, given what I see written at the end of some of Paul’s letters, and the style of the book of Hebrews and some of Paul’s letters, letters may have not just been composed by Paul and his scribe but letters could have been a collaborative effort by Paul and his apostolic team. I’m thinking of Paul in prison here, mostly, where we see a lot of greetings at the end of the letters.

Paul was the leader of an apostolic movement but he had many people on his team. Letters sent “from” Paul are sent carrying his authority as the leader of an apostolic movement, but what if they were composed collaboratively? Paul was there to OK the letter but he didn’t come up with the whole thing, rather doctrine was discussed, how things were to be communicated was agreed upon, the scribe wrote down what the team wanted, did some editing to make it more clear, less confusing, and a letter was sent? This means that Paul, although the leader, was not the only one inspired by the Holy Spirit to write scripture. This throws some interesting light on how scriptural inspiration could have happened, which greatly increases the authority of Scripture in my mind (it’s not just coming from one guy but from a team of guys who all have the Holy Spirit).

This also throws light on the role of scribes today. As a scribe myself it helps me understand the seriousness of what I write and how I write and it shows me how my gifting can be used apostolically and in the Church today. Many pastors and apostolic guys today aren’t good at writing well, and it’s not as if I think they should be, I’m not very good at half the things they do. They also don’t have the time. But a scribe can take the heart of these guys and, also being inspired by the Holy Spirit and carrying a certain authority, convey it in written words for them, which is necessary in an information driven world that is being dominated by the Internet.

That makes me excited. I’m also here to perform my function in the church and this function is a serious one. We leave it up to the pastors to lead, envision, and even write books. Why? Why aren’t we seeing more scribes do that? This is perhaps a lost art form that I think is much needed in the church today. Writing is not just about selling millions of books (and generally it’s only the big name pastors who sell lots of books anyway) but about helping leaders in the church to communicate effectively. No one really knows the name Tertius but he was perhaps an incredibly important cog in the scripture writing process. It’s not about having a big name but about being effective.

As to number (3) above, this article at the Religious Study Centre answers that, and I think pretty well. It also clears up a lot of how scribes used to work and I recommend it for further research.

I realise I haven’t unpacked everything I could in this post, but I probably will as time goes by and I give this all a think and more research.

~Ryan Peter

August 12, 2011

The Unity of Scripture (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Alex Motyer’s Look to the Rock was published by Kregel Books in 1996.  In a few cases, I’ve paraphrased his words to make this more palatable to a younger demographic…

THE BOOK WITH THE ANSWERS AT THE BACK

…We reach the end of Malachi with…glowing expectations of the Messiah but without knowing how they can possibly be fulfilled:  How can the son of David be David’s Lord?  How can one with a plainly human ancestry be truly ‘the Lord our righteousness?  Such questions could be multiplied over the whole area of Old Testament revelation.  They are not exclusive to the messianic theme.  But they do suggest that we should see the Bible as the book with answers at the back.

Like all attempts to reduce the huge question of biblical unity to a single model, this can be caricatured.  For we are all familiar with math textbooks where the answers to problems are found in the final pages, or with introductions to Hebrew or New testament Greek where a ‘key’ to the book is provided in a supplement.  Needless to say, the New Testament is not a set of ‘answers’ or a ‘key’ in quite the same way.  Maybe therefore, a detective novel would be a better illustration, where problems and clues multiply in the cours4e of the book and are solved in the final climax.  This offers a greater approximation to unity in diversity.

Tomorrow: A Two Act Play.

This actually fits well with yesterday’s discussion of grace.  If you see the Old Testament as all about ‘law’ and the New Testament as all about ‘grace,’ you end up missing the grace in the Old Testament.   The problem is that all our understanding of scripture is overlaid by the presupposition of division between the testaments.  Tomorrow’s reading offers a great example where someone in the OT experiences God’s grace through simple repentance.  Can you remember who that was?

UPDATE:  After posting this and then preparing tomorrow’s second part, I realized this one is comparatively lighter in terms of study.  So, I thought you might want to read ahead and examine something called Marcionism.  Wikipedia refers to it as “an early Christian dualist belief system,” while a shorter article in Theopedia pulls no punches and calls it “an early Christian heresy.” Click the underlined links for the two articles.

June 4, 2011

The Bible’s Unsung Heroes

This post from Trevin Wax is pure gold.  Take a few minutes to consider the inclusion of these unsung heroes in your copy of the scriptures.  This first appeared on May 31st on Trevin’s blog, Kingdom People.  (Click the link to read at source.)

We hear a lot about Paul, Peter, James, and John. But there are plenty of people mentioned in the New Testament that can slip by us unnoticed.

In Colossians 4, the Apostle Paul lists ten less-familiar names from the early church. Paul’s “shout-out” to these saints reminds me of the vast majority of Christians who quietly play important roles in the kingdom of God. Even though these mentions are brief, they contain life-long lessons for us today.

Tychicus – Encourage one another by speaking God’s Word.

Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful servant, and fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.

Tychicus had a job to do. He was to deliver news about Paul, as well as Paul’s letter to the people in Colosse. The result would be the encouragement of the Christians’ hearts. I want to be like Tychicus. I want to be a herald of the Word, so much so that it overflows from my heart at the right time and place.

Onesimus – The gospel turns uselessness into usefulness.

[Tychicus] is with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

Onesimus was a runaway slave. His name meant “useful,” but he had proven “useless” to his master, Philemon. Yet Paul commended him as a faithful and dearly loved brother, adding “he is one of you.” The cross unites what the world would keep separate. Early in life, Onesimus hadn’t lived up to his name. The gospel changed all that, and it changes us too. There is no way we can live up to the name “Christian” apart from the soul-sanctifying work of the gospel, the good news that takes useless sinners and turns us into useful co-laborers in God’s kingdom.

Aristarchus – Suffer with one another.

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you…

Aristarchus was one of Paul’s companions in ministry, and here he is shown as a companion in suffering. We need people like Aristarchus, who stay focused on the kingdom regardless of the consequences, who rejoice with us in times of joy and mourn with us in times of trial.

Mark – Keep getting up after you fall.

… as does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)…

Mark was the cause of one of the early church’s major splits. Paul and Barnabas disagreed over Mark’s desire to join them on a missionary journey. Why? Because Mark had been a drop-out. He had started out with them on a previous journey and then had gone home. This passage indicates that Mark was already restored to Paul. Mark fell, but he got back up. In fact, it’s likely that he wrote one of the four Gospels! The lesson here? Keep getting up. The righteous man falls seven times, and yet he gets back up every time.

Justus – Make your Christianity your first identity.

… and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

Justus willingly set aside his identity twice in order to spread the gospel. First, though his name was Jesus, he went by Justus, probably to avoid confusion with the Jesus he was proclaiming. Secondly, he left his own people, the Jews, in order to spread the gospel among those in Rome. Justus grounded his identity in Jesus Christ. He wasn’t first and foremost a Jew. Neither was his name unalterable. He was “in Christ.” What about you? What is your main identity? The Christian whose primary identity is Jesus Christ can cross cultures and boundaries on behalf of the gospel.

Epaphras – Contend for others in prayer.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.

Epaphras was a prayer warrior. Burdened by the spiritual immaturity he saw in others, he went before the throne of grace and “contended” for God’s people in prayer.  He wanted the people in his church to have assurance of the will of God, to know how to act. So he took these burdens to God in prayer. What a privilege to carry the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters to God!

Luke – Use your occupation for the glory of God.

Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas greet you.

Luke used his occupation as a doctor for God’s glory. Who knows how many times Luke treated Paul as he healed from terrible wounds to his back? Luke didn’t use his own gifts merely for his own gain. He gave those gifts to God. We learn from Luke that our vocations are not separate from our spiritual life. We are called to do all to the glory of God – with excellence, with beauty, with zeal.

Demas – Watch out that you do not turn back!

Paul’s letter to Timothy informs us that Demas fell in love with the world and turned away from God. Something other than God captured his affections. Demas’ example serves as a warning to us. Watch out that you do not turn back! Let his example warn us against turning away from God and abandoning our faith in the gospel.

Nympha – Do what you can with what you have.

Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home.

Nympha opened up her home and let the church meet there. She gave of her resources for the sake of the gospel. You may think you have nothing to give. But Christ can take the most ordinary thing and shape it into a tool for the advancement of His kingdom. He asked to use the boat of some fishermen, and that simple boat became a pulpit to preach to the masses. With a small boy’s packed lunch of bread and fish, Jesus was able to feed more than 5000 men alone. With a little dirt from the ground, He was able to heal the blind man. The borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea became the empty tomb that would prove Christ’s resurrection.

Archippus – Challenge one another to stay on the right track.

And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”

Paul’s letter to the Colossian church contains this personal challenge to one individual. It reminds me a little of an ordination service, where the pastor preaches a message that is directed to the candidate. Since it’s not a message for the whole church, people wonder, Why not give this message in private? The reason is because the whole church is supposed to challenge the candidate afterward to live up to the charge given him. Archippus is an example of how Christians are to challenge one another, sometimes in private, sometimes in public. We need the exhortation of brothers and sisters in Christ, in order to grow in holiness and faith.

Aristarchus, Archippus, Nympha, Justus… just a few of the Bible’s unsung heroes, “unsung” because they were primarily focused on making sure that the praises of Jesus Christ were sung by people from all tribes, tongues, and nations. When your most passionate desire is that Christ’s praises be sung, you too can be an unsung hero.

Trevin Wax at Kingdom People

 

May 27, 2011

River Crossings

I was looking at Milt Rodriguez’ blog today and knew his writing would be a perfect fit here, but it was hard to choose a single post. Milt is the author of four books, and is active in the house church, or simple church, or what he calls organic church movement.  (See Thinking out Loud’s post yesterday on this topic.)  This first appeared at his blog, Christ and His Church under the title, River Crossers.

What is a True Hebrew?

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire.  We are not sure who wrote the letter but we do know that God authored it!  It is kind of strange that the letter was written to Hebrews instead of Israelites.  But as we discover what a true “Hebrew” is, it makes perfect sense.  The word hebrew literally means one who crosses or passes over something.

Abraham

Abraham is the first person referred to as a “hebrew” in the bible.

Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.”    Gen. 14:13

We can see from Abraham’s life that he was one who crossed over.  What did he cross over?  He crossed over the Euphrates river to enter the Canaan land (Gen 15:18).  He left his homeland, Ur of the Chaldeans (ancient Babylonia) to enter into the land God would give his descendants.    Why did God have Abraham enter this Canaan land full of evil tribes and peoples?  It’s because this is the place where He would build His temple, the dwelling place of God on the earth.

Abraham did what God wanted but he was only one man at that time.  God wanted a nation.  He wanted a corporate Man.

The Children of Israel

The nation of Israel crossed two rivers.  First they crossed the Red Sea leaving Egypt.  Then, a generation latter, they crossed the Jordan river to enter the Canaan land.  Here again, God’s goal was to have his people in the Canaan land.  Why? Because He wanted to build His house, His temple in that land.  He wanted a City (Jerusalem) in the land of Canaan in which He would build His very own house that He would dwell in.

Now, even though these things really did happen, they were only shadows and types of the reality that would be fulfilled in the New Testament.  The Reality that is Jesus Christ Himself!

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the ultimate river crosser!  He is the true Hebrew.  He crossed over four rivers.

The River of Human Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”    John 1:14

Jesus crossed over by becoming a man.  He emptied Himself of His godhood and took on the form of a lowly man, a servant (Phil. 2:5-11).  The Greatest became the least.  The Highest became the lowest.  He left all of his “stuff” on the other side so that he could accomplish God’s eternal purpose.

The River of Baptism

Then your Lord crossed over the river Jordan and left behind his divinity so that he could totally be the Son of Man and live a life as a man who had the Father living inside of him.  He learned by the things he suffered and learned how to live by the life of his Father who was indwelling him (Jn. 6:57).

He immediately went into the wilderness after his baptism.  Like Israel of old, he passed over the Red Sea into the wilderness to trust God alone for his provision, direction, and life.

The River of Death

Then, he crossed over another river, the river of death on a cross.  This, as all other rivers, was for the purpose of obtaining God’s purpose.  God wanted a house.  He wanted a dwelling place.  And that dwelling place would be in a particular land which would be in a particular city.  He would tear down all of the shadows so that he could obtain the reality.  He tore down the external, temporary, and visible temple so that the REAL temple would be built out of his own BODY!

God wanted his corporate expression so the Son became a Seed that went into the ground and died so the God would get his corporate expression – the multiplication or increase of his Son into a many-membered Body.  He crossed the river and went behind the veil so God would have his full corporate expression.

The River of Our Flesh

Then, after he was resurrected, ascended, and glorified he crossed another river and entered into the veil of our flesh.  This glorious One came and entered inside of You!  (Col. 1:27).

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”   Col. 1:27

Now the glory of his expression lives inside of each believer.  But how will he get his corporate expression?

By each one of us being willing to cross over rivers, leaving the religious baggage behind, and entering into the Canaan land (who is Christ), learning to enjoy the riches of that land (which are Christ),  so he can build his house there (which is Christ!).

May we all become such river crossers!

~Milt Rodriguez

To learn more about organic church, explore Milt’s blog starting with this article.

March 8, 2011

Christ Formed In You: Spiritual Transformation

I want to introduce something a little different today.  Sometimes a blogger will work their way, chapter by chapter, through a current Christian book.  Others will dedicate a whole blog to promote a particular book they’re enjoying.  We’re going to crash in the middle of a blog which is the latter type, set up to promote the book Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges (Shepherd Press).   If it whets your appetite for more, click back to the beginning or, better yet, buy the book.

This one is titled The Pattern of  Spiritual Transformation.

How does God get us up on our feet and moving in the right direction? What are some of the basic elements we need to understand in order to walk more like Jesus? Two related passages of Scripture give us the answer.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

In these verses, Paul provides us with five essential elements which make up spiritual transformation: the goal, the motive, the cost, the process, and the power. Each element is important. We must have the right goal, if we’re to know what we’re striving for. We also need to be rightly motivated in our pursuit, while at the same time fully understanding and embracing the cost. An understanding of the process is also essential, if we’re to fully cooperate with it. And, of course, we must be resourced with power, or we’ll get nowhere.

1. The Goal: The Image of Christ

As we saw in chapter one and have repeatedly emphasized throughout this book, the goal of spiritual transformation is conformity to the character of Christ. We see this in 2 Corinthians 3:18: we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” This is God’s eternal purpose. As Romans 8:29 says, God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son.” He wants to make us more and more like Jesus in his spotless holiness, humble service, radiant joy, and self-giving love.

2. The Motive: The Mercies of God

Next, consider the motive, which Paul declares with the phrase, “the mercies of God.” This again takes us back to the thrust of this book. All genuine spiritual transformation is driven by the gospel.

Sometimes Paul’s letters are somewhat evenly divided between an exposition of the gospel and encouragement to his readers to live differently because of the gospel. But in the book of Romans, the first eleven chapters (out of sixteen) are almost entirely one great and glorious exposition of the gospel. Then we come to the first phrase of the first verse of chapter 12, which includes a “therefore” encompassing all that came previously. After eleven complete chapters explaining and extolling the glories of the gospel, how does Paul summarize it all in a single phrase? “Therefore, by the mercies of God . . .”

Paul is saying that the gospel is ultimately about God’s mercies [i] lavished on us in Christ, even when we were enemies to God (Rom. 5:10). God has justified us freely in Christ (Rom. 3:24), liberated us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:6-7), and indwelt us by his Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 13-17). God did not even spare his own Son, but gave him up for us (Rom. 8:32). This level of mercy and grace, this stunning demonstration of unwavering commitment to those whom he loves, assures us that God will give us everything we need. What amazing mercy! Only the ravishing taste of such mercy and grace can change us.

3. The Cost: Present Your Bodies as Living Sacrifices…

4. The Process: Renewing the Mind…

5. The Power: The Spirit of the Lord…


[i] God’s mercies include: righteousness (3:21-26), redemption (3:24), grace (3:24), peace (5:1), grace (5:2), justification (5:1), hope (5:4-5), the love of God poured out in our hearts (5:5), union with Christ (6:1-11); freedom from sin (6:1-23; eternal life (6:22), freedom from the law (7:1-25); no condemnation (8:1), the Spirit (8:9), sonship (8:14-16); the hope of the future redemption of our bodies (8:23); the Spirit interceding (8:26-27); all things working together for our good (8:28), conformity to Jesus Christ (8:29), calling (8:30), glorification (8:30), and so on.

February 25, 2011

Maybe All the Letters Should Be in Red Ink

Red Letter Christians” is a popular term of late. Dan Phillips has a great article at Team Pyro that I want to encourage you to read in its original form. It will take you about 3-4 minutes. Just click here, and then you may skip everything that follows.

Don’t have 3-4 minutes?  Okay, here’s the snapshot:

  • The present trend is to put more stock in Jesus’ words than the words of the Epistles, probably because Jesus’ words are more palatable to certain audiences.
  • Jesus told the apostles to preach and gave them the freedom to draft their own text. At a literal level, they were not reading off the same page.
  • The apostles were promised the Holy Spirit to inspire and supervise their writing.
  • The above point goes deeper, the Spirit would “bear witness” with their spirit, John 16: 12-15 promises they would deliver their message with authority; a message than can be trusted.
  • The promise in John 16 also suggests that the apostles would receive “new things” which Jesus himself had not yet uttered.
  • These things would be “of Him,” in other words, their words would be His words.
  • The apostles knew this and realized the weight of their words. Dan phrases this: “”If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). The apostle, in so many words, equates his writings with a command of Jesus Christ. His writings, Paul says, are (not merely “contain”) the command (not merely general notions) of Jesus.
  • Ephesians 2:20 says that the apostles are laying the foundation with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.  This is God’s design, building for the generations that would follow.
  • Attempts to “segregate” the writings of Paul are negated by Peter’s affirmation of Paul’s writings in II Peter 3:15-16
  • Here are some concluding thoughts from the article:

..You really could make the legitimate argument that the apostles’ words should also equally be red-letter, in that they are the words of Christ conveyed by the Holy Spirit…

and

…In conclusion, I might come full circle and affirm that Christians should focus on the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.

But then I would hasten to say that those words and teachings are found from Matthew to Revelation.

If you’re reading this sentence, it possibly means you skipped the original, so now that you’re appetite is whetted for this discussion, here’s a second chance to just click here.

February 11, 2011

Know Your Place

John Indermark is a United Church of Christ minister in Naselle, Washington.  This devotional appeared in Upper Room Disciplines 2007 (p. 70):

Philippians 3:17(NIV) Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Do you know your place?  “Knowing your place” can be a phrase used to limit or control another’s life — or our own. We don’t like others rocking our boat. Persons don’t appreciate our meddling in their affairs. “That is not your place.”

Paul, on the other hand, speaks of knowing our place in a positive sense. Paul counsels the Philippians and through them us to “stand firm in the Lord in this way.” I take “in this way” as a synonym for knowing our lives are anchored in the place made for us in the love and grace of God. If we know where we belong — and to whom we belong — we can live with values and purposes that differ from those that deny hope or belittle life.

Tradition holds that Paul wrote Philippians while imprisoned.  Yet, the whole of Philippians is one of Paul’s most joy-filled epistles. Gratitude for God and for the community for whom he writes filled its chapters. How can that be? Paul knows his place in life and does not allow imprisonment to define it. His place is defined by life in Christ and citizenship in God’s realm.

Do you know your place? Do you know where and to whom you belong: even when life seems confining, even when hope seems distant, even when circumstances spiral out of your control? To live in Christ is to know our place as anchored in love, grace and hope.  Such an awareness of place in our lives frees us to live out our days in actions and words that embody those same qualities.

Do you know your place in Christ?

Next Page »