Christianity 201

October 12, 2016

Standing on Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but perhaps what they are looking for is “a little less faith and a little more certainty.” Is that what they really want?

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is, in contrast, also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The sometimes controversial musical, Godspell, introduced a generation to the following prayer:

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith. At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together. Faith is relational, a personal thing. It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper! It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing. For most of us, it has a quiet beginning. It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week. We can’t create faith, or command it. It is the gift of God. But we can receive it, and nurture it. And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding. We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that. Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow. Only God can do that. But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much. If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die. And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

Read more:

February 3, 2014

Salvation: Still Free (Last Time I Checked)

Although I don’t use eBooks, I’m always intrigued by the concept that publishers now routinely offer books completely free of charge. There are Christian bloggers who regularly advise their readers where to find the daily and weekly bargain downloads, but sometimes I’m reading an old blog post, so even though I don’t have an eReader, I’ll click through to learn more, only to find the offer is no longer in effect and there is now a price to be paid.

Fortunately, when it comes to salvation, there is currently no closing date on God’s offer. True, a day will come when that will change. Also true, you don’t know long you have to take advantage. But it’s a free offer.

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

For some, this is simply too good to be true. “Surely there is a cost;” they say, and truthfully they are correct. While Salvation itself is a free gift, God offers so much for us for this life, and that is going to involve taking up your cross daily. It might mean sacrifice or it might mean being ostracized by your family, friends and co-workers.

But in our original coming to Jesus, we find the offer to “taste and see” is both easy and simple. The problem we have is putting this idea across to those outside the church, and I believe part of the challenge is that we are living in a culture that is not Biblically literate, and therefore are not, as music and literary people say, “familiar with the literature.”

The story that needs to be kept told for me is the story in Numbers:

Numbers 21:7-9

(NIV)

7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This Old Testament story foreshadows, as do so many OT stories, what Christ is going to do. As God’s people sojourn, they are given pictures which are somewhat for our benefit. Sometimes we impute this into the text from a New Testament perspective, but sometimes Jesus spells out for us in words unmistakable:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…

Again, some of you are thinking, “this sounds really familiar,” and that’s because we covered this here in August, just a few months ago. But I felt directed that we need to return to this Old Testament picture, and furthermore we need to teach people how to teach people this story. While a testimony of “what God has done for us,” and a rudimentary knowledge of basic salvation scriptures are both helpful, it’s needful to be able to construct the offer of “God’s gift” in terms unrelated to the deeper, doctrinal considerations of Romans or Hebrews which the novice believer can’t fully process.

That’s why, for the fourth time, I’ve returned to this theme today. It can be explored more in each of the blog posts listed below.

But what if salvation is being commodified too much in this approach. As with all things, we need to be careful; we need to strike a balance. Tomorrow, we’re going to explore this in a way we haven’t in any of the preceding articles. Stay tuned.

The Great Exchange from Adam4d

Go deeper, read more:

Graphic: Adam4D (click graphic to source)

July 4, 2013

Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but what if they needed was “a little less faith and a little more certainty.”

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The musical, Godspell, made the following prayer famous.

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

  104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith.  At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together.  Faith is relational, a personal thing.  It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper!  It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing.  For most of us, it has a quiet beginning.  It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week.  We can’t create faith, or command it.  It is the gift of God.  But we can receive it, and nurture it.  And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding.  We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that.  Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow.  Only God can do that.  But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much.  If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die.  And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

 

Read more: