Saturday, December 25, 2004
Starting chapter 3 verse 18, Paul begins to close out his letter to the Colossians by giving instruction to various groups: wives, then husbands, children, fathers, slaves, then masters. In 4:2 he tells them to pray, in general, and in verse 3 for him in particular, for two things:
1. opportunity to witness (v.3 "open...a door")
2. plainness of speech in witnessing (v.4 "that I may make it clear" KJV-"manifest")
On this note about witnessing, he tells them in v.5 to "conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders," "making best use of the time." The thought continues in v.6:
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Paul is primarily referring to "outsiders" without the gospel here, and just as he asks for prayer so that he can speak properly to be understood, he tells the Colossians to be careful to do the same in their witnessing.
Paul has already concluded his specific instructions to different people in the church with his instruction to masters in 4:1, so then these verses are evidently to apply to all the members.
In verse 6, we are told that we should know how to speak to each person we come across, and this is accomplished by making sure our speech has these qualities:
2. Seasoned with salt
The first quality could be interpreted to mean that we should be graceful in the sense of polished and smooth. It could also be interpreted to mean that we should have mercy and longsuffering with those who believe wrongly. The word used for grace is used in both contexts in Scripture. However, not all can be graceful in the sense of polished in their speech, so I would say that the second idea of grace is really in view.
This grace allows us to speak with someone in error without being harsh and condemnatory. As a matter of fact, this grace will cause us to learn about them more so we can more clearly cause them to understand the gospel.
The second quality, that of being seasoned with salt, brings to mind the words of Jesus:
Mat 5:13 ESV "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "
Mar 9:50 ESV Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
We are to have the salt in ourselves, and be salt to the world. See also:
Mat 5:14 ESV "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Joh 1:9 ESV The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Joh 1:14-17 ESV 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. (15) (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") (16) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Joh 14:16-17 ESV And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (17) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Col 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
As Christians, we have the Spirit in us which bears witness, who is the fulness of Christ in us, the living word, by which we recieve grace and truth through which we may minister and instruct others.
Christ is our saltiness, which is manifested outward through our ministry and teaching. So when Paul says to let our speech be seasoned with salt, he is telling us to include the teaching of Christ in our conversations. We should try to work Christ into our daily discussions with all due grace and appropriateness. By this we can let our light shine.
Although this verse is written mostly concerning talk with unbelievers, certainly there is an application between Christians. The same grace and truth by which we minister to unbelievers is the same grace and truth by which we minister to each other. The church comes together for edification. As Christ forgave, we should forgive. So our speech should be full of grace and mercy to other Christians, as well as edifying to the building up of each other.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
I quote from the KJV here because the issue I will discuss is partly brought on by the wording of the KJV. The issue is this- that some use this verse to say that everyone should be under some form of authority. Of course Bill Gothard teaches the idea of the "umbrella of authority," meaning that by being under some authority you are under special divine protection.
Unfortunately, you can use this verse to support an idea that everyone should put themselves under someone's authority. This verse is speaking to a much more narrow focus, which is evident if you recall the context of Rom. 13, which is civil government. See the ESV here:
Rom 13:1 ESV Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
The NIV, NASB, and NKJV also have "governing authorities". "Higher powers" is more literal, but in the context, "governing authorities" is more accurate. Not only is it more accurate, but it would have helped to stave off the types of doctrinal misuse mentioned above.
Often KJV only folks reduce the utility of the newer versions to that of being easier to read, which in many cases they are. They do this so as to promote the KJV as the only real Bible because the other Bibles are so easy to read they don't require the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To start with, if this narrowing of perspective was valid in the first place, the answer would have to be made that God gave His word in human language for the purpose of ready comprehension. If more difficult to read makes a translation more meaningful, then lets all read the original languages, Hebrew & Greek. You really have to study those.
A more useful answer that makes the whole point moot is that the KJV, if not mistranslated in parts (which I believe it is), is misleading in parts, and not for reasons of difference between the English language then and now.
Another important observation to make is that no translation in history has had the effect of extinguishing heresy. The KJV is very useful to a number of unorthodox groups such as Mormons, who have made the KJV their standard translation.
"At the moment you consciously make a choice, pay attention to your body and ask your body, "If I make this choice, what happens?" If your body sends a message of comfort, that's the right choice. If your body sends a message of discomfort, then it's not the appropriate choice.
"For some people the message of comfort and discomfort is in the area of the solar plexus, but for most people it's in the area of the heart. Consciously put your attention in the heart and ask your heart what to do. Then wait for a response - a physical response in the form of a sensation. It may be the faintest level of feeling - but it's there, in your body.
[now pay close attention...]
"Only the heart knows the correct answer. Most people think the heart is mushy and sentimental. But it's not. The heart is intuitive, it's holistic, it's contextual, it's relational. It doesn't have a win-lose orientation. It taps into the cosmic computer - the field of pure potentiality, pure knowledge, and infinite organizing power - and takes everything into account. At times it may not even seem rational, but the heart has a computing ability that is far more accurate and far more precise than anything within the limits of rational thought."
Compare with the Bible:
Rom 9:1 ESV I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit--
2Co 1:12 ESV For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
1Ti 1:5 ESV The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
2Co 8:16 ESV But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.
Eph 6:6 ESV not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
It is evident that God works through the heart and conscience to provide us with an intuitive sense of what we are supposed to do. Some Christians think the idea of the leading of the heart is nonsense and emotional. But these people don't understand or appreciate the intuitive nature of the heart, especially when guided by the Holy Spirit. Chopra's discussion really clears up the mechanics of how it is the heart leading is worthy of our attention. As finite beings we have no faculty to truly comprehend that which is not visible to us, except by intuition.
This is a spiritual law that applies to everyone. It takes on new meaning for the Christian since we now have the eternal mind guiding our hearts, making us wiser and more transcendant in our existances, if we follow after God and his righteousness.
The following verses deserve to be looked at:
1Jo 3:18-22 ESV Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (19) By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; (20) for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (21) Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (22) and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
Here the Bible says that sometimes our heart will condemn us. Those without Christ have no grace in this circumstance, when their own hearts condemn their actions and lives through guilt. Sometimes our heart will put us on a "guilt trip," so to speak, even though we have started to do right. I John tells us that in God, we have grace and can rest assured because of God's omniscience- he knows the truth.
Chap. 4 - "The Law of Least Effort"
"'An integral being knows without going, sees without looking, and accomplishes without doing.
This quote jumped out at me. (BTW, Lao Tzu is awesome.) Of course I had said before, that I believed that Chopra's universal field of potentiality is really a personal integrative field. This quote seems to bolster that conclusion. What Lao Tzu is saying, is that a truly integrated person can use intuitive force to his benefit. The deductive intuitive force is the leading of the heart. The inductive intuitive force is the personal re-alignment of our tri-parte beings and the creation of an aura favorable to the purposes or intentions we have. I discussed the relationship of the mechanics of this and Christianity earlier.
To go a little further into the actual mechanics of intuitive induction, I have to point out Chopra's idea of going into the "gap." Going into this gap is achieved through meditation, where we sit in silence as a means to transcend and get away from the interference of our minds. This action helps to recenter our beings, much like holding up a set of wind chimes from a table and watching the chimes hang in their proper spots. We then introduce our intentions as we come out of the gap, much like we might set the wind chimes down in such a way as to make them lay in the pattern we desire. This has to be repeated because life gets us out of alignment through the introduction of new problems.
I think this whole scheme of things is quite similar to the Biblical idea of watching & prayer.
"Blasphemy!" you say. No, it is not blasphemy. Again, it is a spiritual law that applies to everyone, just like gravity applies to everyone. It is as simple as the fact that if you can get yourself in internal agreement your potential is much greater.
Again, the Christian's advantage is that he has not only the assistance of the eternal mind but also the opportunity to align, not only his internal self, but to align his internal self with the eternal mind, making his life that much more transcendant.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
In the bottom of this box of what was purportedly children's books, was a slim volume from Deepak Chopra titled "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success". Now I had heard of Chopra before but wrote his stuff off as hopelessly New Age.
Having just had a weekend where I was feeling a bit disoriented as a Christian and not having anything better to do I picked up the book. Just a few months earlier, I had read Abraham-Hicks material- for readers familiar with Abraham-Hicks I will liken it to a bludgeon, while Chopra's 7 Laws are a sharp samurai's sword.
The gist of both teachings is this- you create through intent and desire while remaining detached from the result. Chopra's 7 Laws clearly explain the how and the why; as I read it Bible verses popped to mind, backing up whole portions of his text.
This is a problem for the Christian. The mechanism is not so much a challenge to Christianity's concept of God. The universal applicability is the challenge. If it is true that through introducing impulses of intent through meditation the fabric of the universe can be made to bring into being that which we desire, what benefit is there to being a Christian, and especially of what benefit is Christian prayer beyond a mere cloak for introducing impulses of intent?
It is possible that the "fabric of the universe" being tapped through meditation is merely a personal integrative field that transmits messages between the spirit, soul, and body. Intent through meditation not aligns the field generally, but aligns the field in such a way as to cause to produce the specified intent even if we are not consciously reaching for it. This alignment of the personal integrative field also exhibits a magnetism (possibly through the creation of a more favorable aura) that draws others to our cause thereby providing further assist to the achievement of our intent.
None of this is inherently anti-Christian. As a matter of fact, I would argue for the existance of such an integrative field based on the fact that if our spirit, soul, and body had no means of intrinsic communication, we would not be able to function normally. Of course the tri-partite nature of man is definately a Christian idea.
Additionally, Chopra's discussion of the divinity within is a metaphor for the spirit of man. Unleashing the divinity of man through self referral is simply putting our spirits in control, rather than our emotions or physical drives. This too is a very Christian idea, putting the body and carnal mind under subjection. To clarify, self referral is taking our worth from ourselves. Object referral is taking our worth from something external. Most people live in the mode of object referral which is why we have to stroke egos and play politics with insecure people. Again, the primacy of self referral is a tremendously Christian idea as Paul tells us not to compare ourselves with others.
Chopra's discussion of detachment is probably the most profound and Biblical chapter in the entire book. I was astounded by the lessons of faith I could draw from this teaching. In a nutshell, detachment is about having intent and desire without being attached to the result. In other words, you want something, but if it never happens you are OK with that. The reason and basis for this is rooted in the acceptance of the present, not by the fact you can't change it, but because the present is exactly how things were supposed to be. Dear Christian, how much clearer can you make faith in God to be? This is a perfect discussion of the interplay of spiritual forces at work in faith. It is also a perfect blend of the ideas of God's soveriegnty and our will.
Chopra also discusses the concepts of karma (reaping what you sow) and dharma (a life's calling), both of which are intimately Christian. He provides several methods for dealing with bad karma (reaping your wild oats) and how to find your life's calling.
These are all truly spiritual laws. If we believe that it rains on the just and the unjust, then we realize that physical laws are fully applicable to every man to be used for his benefit or ignored to his detriment. The same goes with emotions. I also would say, the same goes for the spiritual. There are spiritual laws that affect every man and woman, which may be used for his or her benefit, and it does not matter if you believe in God or not.
So we are back to the question of, why is Christianity special? The reason is, that while spiritual laws can be utilized by anyone in the temporal world, we cannot affect the eternal. Our temporal lives create, as if by carbon copy, an eternal karma which will not be due until we enter the eternal realm. In addition, there exists an eternal mind with eternal wisdom who is God, who we cannot touch through our temporal abilities. On the flip side, He cannot touch us either. Would that we could be one with this eternal God and bring His power and presence to bear in our lives and to the world, and to have His aid in dealing with our eternal karma.
Christianity is true because Christ bridges this gap.
The lesson for the Christian is that God made us integrated beings and that while we may touch the eternal through Christ, there exist some spiritual laws that are in effect in this temporal world which we must master. Our benefit is that once we master these, they can become a conduit for eternal power, wisdom, and purpose, rather than the mere fulfilling of our own desires. God retains control over the spiritual laws just as he does the physical ones. The eternal God also offers assistance in carrying out these laws.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Most would say yes.
What if the man wore jeans and a t-shirt?
Most would say that is a stupid way to dress for an interview.
What does God think?
He might probably agree about wearing a suit, but it would not be wrong to wear something else.
So it is not true that a man should wear a suit to an interview?
It is, but not absolutely so.
Some truth is relative.
His message was on postmodernism. He did a tremendous job describing postmodernism, and even caused me to have a few questions about it. No doubt he did his homework. In addition, he used II Tim 4:1-5 as his text, which actually fit with his message. For any IFB preacher to be well-informed is miracle enough. To have an IFB preacher use verses at least somewhat within their proper exegetical context and understanding is an act of God.
Now, you think he would spend the application part of his message equipping the saints to respond to postmodern thought. Sadly, he did not really do that. He reaffirmed God's perfection, integrity, and eternality, but missed an awesome opportunity to get IFBs plugged into the world around them. Instead, his examples of the effects of postmodern thought were contemporary churches. Completely ignoring the fact that culture is inherently neutral, he proceeded to blast Jerry Falwell, "neo-evangelicals," and modern Bible versions.
So the "informed" IFB college graduate from his college comes out thinking that postmodernism is about rock music and new versions of the Bible, I guess. And then they'll get broadsided by the _truth_. Oh, the irony...
It got me thinking. IFBs spend alot of time figuring out those evil contemporary churches and how to deal with that. Of course this detracts from time and effort that could be used in learning how to relate to the lost. Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of articulation ability among IFBs, which makes most of our response to an intelligent, lost world little more than "Bible-thumping." We don't know about where they are coming from in any real detail because, by golly, we're separated.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
I think I have mentioned before that sometimes church feels surreal. I feel like I am in a corporation sometimes... we are "selling" the gospel and the church benefits in increased attendance. Sometimes it seems that the only thing that matters in the Christian life is proselytizing, and doing whatever it takes to keep new people in attendance.
Now I have been through some situations where I have been burned/turned-off/whatever by independent fundamental Baptist churches. I have chalked up some of my feeling to this. I have asked myself, why am I so detached? Why do the church pushes to get people in seem so dry? Why?
Well first, evangelism is not my gift. Now, the gospel is committed to us and we are to "do the work of an evangelist," but it seems this gift is the only really important gift in some churches. There is a lack of depth in many ministries because people with different gifts have not been identified and employed. Oftentimes in IFB churches, for example, the "teaching" gift is sometimes downplayed through the ridicule of "expository teaching," "dry theology," & etc.
There is also an organizational barrier to full employment of the gifts within the church body. This barrier is, quite frankly, the centralized, top-down, hierarchial, single head pastor led church. As with any such organization, those who serve must commit themselves almost unreservedly to the leadership of the head pastor (or else keep quiet). Also, the "mass-feeding" approach results in a few teachers and a great crowd of passive receivers. Think "buffet-line".
The remedy to this begins in decentralizing church structure into what existed in the NT. Whether you call it house churches or small groups, this concept is the only concept that makes room for everyone and their gifts.
However, even were this model to be implemented, there remains a problem with our outreach. While we are told to carry the gospel into the world, we are told that:
Joh 13:35 ESV By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
1Th 3:11-12 ESV Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, (12) and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
Gal 6:10 ESV So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Mat 10:8 ESV Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
It should be clear at this point that our outreach is not just the preaching of the gospel, but ministering to the materials needs of others:
Jam 2:15-16 ESV If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Perhaps the reason all the church evangelism and attendance pushes seem so detached and corporate is because we are not reaching out to the poor. We are OK with getting people in the door and spending money on literature to convince people to come but helping the poor, well we have a small closet with some food we call a "pantry". If anybody comes we'll give them something after a thorough proselytization attempt. I mean, if they were really saved or had any character they wouldn't be going without.
Unfortunately, this is the extent of most IFB churches' outreach to the poor.
This is all stuff I began to think about during the morning service. Mostly my concerns would probably be met with the suggestion that I find a rescue mission to help out. Well that's not good enough. NIMBYism isn't acceptable here. If the church is too small to do anything together for the poor they should encourage giving money and time to volunteer to help. I intend to find a place to help. You know what? When I volunteered back in Virginia I ended up at Catholic and Presbyterian churches. Not Baptist. I suspect the same will be true here in San Diego.
I searched the net a little and found the weblog of a homeless person. I read the following entry with interest:
"Finally, a break from having to stay at the rescue mission - which is a break from being treated as less than a child of God. Oh, the folks at the rescue mission pat themselves on their collective backs, telling each other what a good job they do. No one will tell better how good the rescue mission staff is than than rescue mission staff. Of course, humility is not their strong suit, as they are quick to take credit for what the mission supplies the homeless. Lest they forget, they are only caretakers of other people's generosity. The staff of the mission does not provide anything, they only serve it, - the staff of the mission did not provide the food, or the building, or the beds, or the chapel, the air conditioning, etc etc. And if it were not enough that the mission staff prides themselves on the work they do, they also greatly mislead both the homeless and the people who donate to the mission. They miss lead the homeless by proclaiming a very distorted view of the gospel. The ways in which they distort the gospel are too numerous to mention. (I'll give one example: the president of the free will baptist bible college gave the sermon just a few nights ago and gave a "salvation gospel" message using the book of Ecclesiastes. Of course the book of Ecclesiastes has nothing to do with salvation, so he ended up slaughtering the real intention of that very important old testament book, changing its meaning to fit his own purposes. And, by the way, no other message is allowed at the mission chapel services but salvation gospel. For this, the homeless are not exposed to any other aspect of Christian life, but to be saved. No wonder most of them quickly fall from grace. Another way the mission staff misleads people is by saying the mission provides everything for free. That is not true. When you require anything of a person, in exchange for a service, that service is not free. As long as the mission has been in operation, it has required the homeless people to sit through one of their chapel services in exchange for a bed and a meal. There is no way to get that bed and that meal without attending their services."
Guess what? The best program, according to the homeless people in his area, was a Catholic program. Now I don't have anything against Catholics. However, these types of things make me angry when I think about all the Baptist Catholic-bashing I've heard. I'll leave you with a few more important verses:
Mat 25:32-40 ESV Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (34) Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, (36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' (37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' (40) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Monday, November 15, 2004
Riding back from work one day the person I carpool with mentioned some financial misfortune that he believed was the chastisement of God. Well, being the skeptic that I am, I immediately said that you couldn't know whether it was God, or whether it was just a coincidence. I mean, bad stuff happens all the time. For starters, wasn't it Job's friends who were guilty of inaccurately pinning Job's misfortune as punishment for sin?
This calls into question whether God chastises at all, due to the simple reason that if we don't know whether it is just misfortune or chastisement then it is not chastisement. We could just continue on writing off every bad happening as mere coincidence while God seemingly gets nowhere. Now, certainly there are people who do just that, but that does not prevent God from ultimately revealing Himself.
In any case the question must still be asked, "how do we know?" How do we know whether a negative situation in our life is divine chastisement or just bad luck, maybe even bad karma.
It helps to think of the opposite side of things- God's blessings. Now the same Christian who might write off chastisement would be eager perhaps, to take a blessing at face value. When we think about blessings, we realize that they are answers to specific needs and desires in our lives. Is it coincidence or is it divine blessing? So you see the same question could be asked here.
Logically we've gotten nowhere. It could be said that both "blessings" and "chastisements" are mere coincidences. However, looking at the fact that "blessings" are quite similar to "chastisements" in how they seem coincidences to us, prepares us to answer the question by looking at who God is:
1Co 13:12 ESV For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
We do not see God now; but we shall see Him "then":
1Co 13:9-10 ESV For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
The perfect comes when we shall see Him face to face, as we see each other here and now- the resurrection. If we as Christians have God for our Father, then we have an unseen Father. Now imagine this: what if your parents could not be seen? You might say, "I am hungry," and a plate of food would appear in front of you, as if by magic. You might hit your sister, and then suddenly you feel the sting of a swat or a force moving you into the corner for some time alone. Coincidence? No, because you know who is there.
So it is with God. Because He cannot be seen at this time so much of His direct action in our lives could and can be written off as coincidence. For those who don't believe in a personal God who cares about individuals, this is a totally proper conclusion. However for the Christian, as we see God's hand IN MEASURE to our own life circumstances we know Who is there. He is an unseen Parent. This helps us to distinguish between mere circumstance and God working, that we see a fair and balanced God (sorry Fox!) bless us in direct proportion to our needs and desires, and chasten us in direct proportion to our unrepentant sin.
Sometimes it is more evident than others, because we can't see Him. It leaves us guessing sometimes. More often than not the witness of the Spirit will step in and confirm the truth of the matter. One day we will see Him face to face and we will know.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
(5) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
My church is having a fall push and, being my normal self, questioned the appropriateness of all the promotional events being put on, and all the effort. What does Jesus have to do with gimmicks? Wasn't it Jesus who rebuked the crowd for following him because of the food?
A missionary from Germany came in and preached from the above text and it stood out to me the effort that these men put into getting their friend to Jesus. In verse 5 Jesus takes note of their faith. When we work to bring people under the sound of the gospel it is an act of faith on our part, because we believe that Jesus can work in their lives.
The question to ask about promotions is, what is the heart of the people behind it? Do they have a heart for getting people under the gospel or is there another motive such as building a crowd? Also, does the promotion take away from the message of the gospel?
If our motive is to see people helped by Jesus Christ and we are not putting on an event that will unduly divert attention from the gospel message, then our efforts are an act of faith in which God is pleased.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Saturday, October 23, 2004
32 aggelos - messenger, KJV translation "angel"
2095 eu - good, KJV primary translation "well"
2097 euaggelizo - messenger of good, KJV primary translation "preach"
2099 euaggelistes - one who is a messenger of good, KJV translation "evangelist"
2784 kerusso - to herald, KJV primary translation "preach"
2783 kerux - one who heralds, KJV primary translation "preacher"
It seems that a "preacher" would be synonymous with an "evangelist". However, "kerusso" and "kerux" pertain more to the giving of the message (heralding or proclaiming) while "euaggelizo" and "euaggelistes" pertain more to the "message of good" being given. It is a difference of emphasis as far as the Biblical usage is concerned.
In other words, you can preach many things but an evangelist specifically denotes one who preaches the gospel, or good news. However preaching in the Biblical NT sense is _always_ giving the gospel, as opposed to teaching, which has to do with the discipleship and continuing instruction of believers.
It should be abundantly clear that the definition of "evangelism" as merely inviting people to church instead of giving them the gospel is without merit. This idea has it's roots in the aggressive soulwinning teachings of Hyles and his followers.
If evangelism is proclaiming the good news, then are all evangelists? This is an interesting thought because of what Paul says concerning gifts:
Eph 4:7-8 ESV But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. (8) Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
[verses 9-10 are a parenthetical statement]
Eph 4:11-14 ESV And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Verse 8 refers back to Psa 68:18, which prophesies Christ's resurrection. After rising from the dead, He gave the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) as He had promised (Jhn 16:7) and through the Spirit gave the gifts (I Cor 12:8-11) listed here in Eph 4.
In the KJV each gift listed is proceeded by the word "some", further clarifying that these gifts are not universal, placing them in the same category as the gifts listed in I Cor 12 where Paul asks:
1Co 12:28-30 ESV And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (30) Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
The question is rhetorical because the answer is obviously, "no". So then we have "some, evangelists" (Eph 4:11 KJV) which seems to make it pretty clear that not everybody is intended to engage in evangelism, which we have previously defined as preaching the gospel.
Is this the case? Does the NT assign special tasks the evangelist that sets him apart from your average "soulwinner"? What is "the work of an evangelist" (II Tim 4:5)? Timothy was not a pastor, but evidently traveled (I Tim 1:3). He taught Christians (II Tim 2:2). I Tim 4:13-15 indicates that Timothy's gift was teaching, and certainly Paul's main encouragement to him in both letters was in this matter. Near the end of his second letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to do "the work of an evangelist". Paul did not call him an evangelist, because Timothy's gift was teaching; but Paul told him to do the work of preaching the gospel anyway.
I think this admonishment of Paul, in telling Timothy to perform evangelism despite the fact that his gift was teaching, should remind us all that at different stages of our life we will have to do things that we are not particularly gifted at. A parent may not have an aptitude for teaching- so while they may not pursue teaching, they still have to teach their children. So it is with evangelism. The gospel has been committed unto us. II Cor 5:18-19 settle the fact that we are to be active in attempting being the world in reconciliation to Christ. We may not be evangelists gifted in preaching to the unsaved, so we won't all pursue a ministry emphasis in this direction. However, we all must, like Timothy, do the work of evangelist on a regular basis.
The first view, as seen in the KJV and NASB, I would support for several reasons:
1. v.38, ekgamizo, literally means to marry off. Other places where this same Greek word is used have the translation (at least in the KJV) of giving in marriage. The man of v.38(which is the same man in vs.36&37) would not be a fiancee in this case because he would not be wanting to give her in marriage, but rather marry her himself.
2. v.37, parthenos, literally means maiden. The phrase "keep his (own) virgin" is true to the literal meaning of the original language. This poses a problem for the idea that the man is a fiancee- to "keep his (own) virgin" is put in contrast with the end of v.36, "let them/her marry". A fiancee keeping his girl without marrying her makes no sense. The NIV gets around this problem by inserting the word "marry" in v.37 where it doesn't exist; and the otherwise excellent ESV comes off looking very confused by actually recommending what I said doesn't make sense:
"37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well."
The NET Bible marginal alternate rendering does no better:
"37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well."
The NRSV also recommends a perpetual, never-ending engagement:
"37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well."
Now to the issue at hand. The father's ability to limit his daughter's chance at marriage is expressly limited in v.37 by the words "having no necessity". The NASB is clearer, "being under no constraint". This phrase connects back to v.36, "if she...need so require" ("if it must be so" NASB). In other words, if the daughter expresses the "need" to be married this places a "constraint" upon the father which does not allow him to "keep his virgin (daughter)" at home.
As to the choice of man he will give his daughter to, this passage does not explicitly give the father veto power. You will have to look elsewhere for that. The end of v.36 simply says, "let them marry" ("gameo" present active imperative).
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Lesson 6 - The Gospel and the Law
There is no more practical question than that of the relationship of a Christian to the law of God. Whenever we hear the radical claims of salvation-by-grace, we immediately ask the following questions. “If we are 'free from the law' does that mean I don't have to obey the law of God?” “Why then should I strive to live a holy life?” “What is the
nature of my obligation (if any) to God's law?” Paul addresses these important questions here.
READ Galatians 3:15-25
1. What principle is laid down in v. 18a? Compare and contrast what it means to receive something by promise vs. receiving something by law?
2. Why was the law of Moses not able to set aside or add to the promises spoken to Abraham? (You may wish to review Genesis 15:9-18.)
4. What, then, is the purpose of the law? (vv.19-22) [Key: What do you think it means that we are “prisoners of sin?”]
5. In vv.23-25, how does Paul explain that the law “leads a person to Christ?”
6. If we are not under the law’s “supervision” (v.25), does that imply that we can live any way we wish? Imagine the features of a relationship with the law based on salvation-by-grace rather than one based on fear and salvation-by-performance?
Unit 6 - Exercise
Read and mark “!” - for something that helped you
“?” -for something that raised a question
Deeds, Words, and Heart
This exercise introduces an important concept: that underneath our behavioral sins lies a fundamental refusal to rest in Christ’s salvation and the drive instead to find our own. That is the point of Lovelace’s reading last week.
The 'Sin underneath the Sins'
Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther Treatise Concerning Good Works (1520) All those who do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in God's favor, grace and good-will, but rather seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep the [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all
the saints combined.
Comment: Luther says if you look to your moral performance as the basis of your relationship with God, then you are breaking the first of the Ten Commandments: "Have no other gods before me." If you fail to grasp and believe the gospel of free justification through Christ's work you violate the first command. How could this be? "If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious and pleased with us, or if we
presumptuously expect to please Him through our works, then all [our compliance with the law] is pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false [savior]... .Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with inward [justifying faith]. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth..."
Comment: Luther says that if we obey God's law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our “doing-good” we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning, and happiness. We are trusting in our being a good parent, or being a good spouse, or our moral uprightness, or our spiritual performance, or our service to other people as our real "Saviors.” If we aren't sure God already loves us in Christ we will be looking to something else as our foundational significance and worth. This is why Luther says that we are committing idolatry (breaking the First commandment) if we don't thoroughly trust in Christ for our acceptability, even if we are otherwise totally moral
and obedient to God. And as this Commandment is the very first, highest and best, from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the faith or confidence in God's favor at all times, is the very first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed and measured...."
Comment: All people sin in general because we are sinners, but why do we sin in any particular instance? Luther indicates the First Commandment is foundational to all the others. Why? Because we will not break Commandments 2-10 unless we are in some way breaking Commandment One and serving some idol. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something which comes because we are trusting in that thing rather than in Christ for our righteousness or salvation. At the moment we sin it is because we are looking to something to give us what only Jesus can give us. Beneath any particular sin is the general sin of rejecting Christ-salvation and indulging in self-
Case study - A Lie
What if you find that you have a habit of lying? What do you do about it?
Moralistic ways to stop lying:
• Fear: “I must stop doing this because God will punish me, he won't bless me.”
• Pride: "I must stop doing this, because I'm a good Christian. I don't want to be like the kind of person who lies."
In general, you will find that the more you simply lay Biblical principles on your heart, the more your heart resists it. (Rom.7:21--Paul says “When I [most] want to do good,
evil lies close at hand..”)
The gospel way to stop lying:
First, ask the question: “Why am I lying in this particular situation?” The reason we lie (or ever do any sin) is because at that moment there is something we feel that we simply must have and so we lie. One typical reason that we lie (though it is by no means the only one) is because we are deeply fearful of losing face or someone's
approval. That means, that the “sin under the sin” of lying is the idolatry of (at that moment) human approval. If we break the commandment against false witness it is because we are breaking the first commandment against idolatry. We are looking more to human approval than to Jesus as a source of worth, meaning and happiness.
Under the sin of lying is the failure to rejoice in and believe in our acceptance in Christ. Under the sin of lying is a kind of heart-unbelief in the gospel, whatever we may tell ourselves intellectually. As we will see below, anything you add to Jesus
Christ as a requirement for a happy life is a functional salvation, a pseudo-lord, and it is controlling you, whether it be power, approval, comfort or control. The only way to change your habit of lying is to repent of your failure to believe the gospel, that you are not saved and acceptable by pursuing this goal and serving this master, but through the grace of Jesus Christ.
Consider this case study in light of this excerpt from the Belgic Confession (1561): Therefore it is so far from being true that his justifying faith makes us remiss in a holy life, that on the contrary without it we would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.
Comment: Unless we believe the gospel, we will be driven in all we do, whether obeying or disobeying, by pride (“self-love”) or fear (“of damnation”). Mere moral effort without the gospel may restrain the heart but cannot truly change the heart. It “jury rigs” the evil of the heart to produce moral behavior out of self-interest. It would be
possible to use fear and pride as ways to motivate a person to be honest, but since fear and pride is also the root for lying, it is only a matter of time before such a thin tissue collapses. Luther was right. If you are obeying the law without deep joy in your acceptance in Christ, you are not loving God with all your heart. You are not obeying God for God. You are being moral so that you can put God in your debt, so he owes you a comfortable life. You are being moral so that you can feel secure in your uprightness. You are being moral in the service of self-salvation, out of the fear and pride that arise without an identity built on Christ in the gospel.
Other kinds of word-sins and what they reveal
1. Which of these three kinds of “mouth-sin” is the biggest problem for you? In which area do you struggle most?
.. TALKING ABOUT MYSELF. Defensiveness rather than taking criticism graciously. Bragging rather than focusing on and complementing others. (cf. Gal. 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord…")
.. TALKING ABOUT OTHERS. Talking unkindly about others more often than
affirming and sincerely praising. Harsh or sarcastic when giving criticism. (cf. Gal. 5:15- "…biting and devouring one another…")
.. TALKING ABOUT LIFE. Complaining and murmuring more than expressing
gratitude and praise. More emphasis on the injustices rather than the mercies of life. (cf. Gal.5:22- "…the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience...gentleness.")
2. Review the following quote from Richard Lovelace:
“The faith that surmounts the evidence and is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually
the root of holiness....”
Without a deep grasp of the gospel, we believe that salvation/happiness/blessing depends conditionally on something we are or do. Thus everyone builds their identity on something besides Jesus. Review one psychologist’s categories of four basic ways in which people seek meaning and self-acceptance. Each of the following four
things can become something we depend on to establish our adequacy and worth instead of depending on Jesus.
3. Now look at the circumstances surrounding your typical mouth sins. Answer this question: “When I [commit this particular sin], what is it that I am after? What do I feel I must have for self-acceptance?”
(a) If you need to defend yourself against criticism, where are you
“warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)
(b) If you need to run other people down or make them look bad, where are you “warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)
(c) If you cannot be grateful and happy unless life is going according to your plan, where are you “warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)
4. Imagine how you could draw on your hope and standing in Christ at these moments and get control of your tongue?
Sunday, October 10, 2004
What does it mean to offend? One person put it this way:
"This freedom I possess is a heavy responsibility. Because I am free to listen to what I want, should I? How about if I offend someone? I thought about this for a long time. I know I must obey God and be sensitive to the weaknesses of others. But how could I guard against offending everyone? What if I were eating foods, listening to music, watching baseball, chewing gum - how would I know if I might unwittingly be offending some other Christian?"
(from Dear Mr. Gothard, by Al Menconi)
This highlights the problem with our concept of "offend". What Paul spoke of in I Cor 8 as offense was not merely doing something someone didn't like, or approve of. As evidenced by I Cor 8:7&11, Paul is speaking of causing people to lose their faith. Many of the liberties that more conservative fundamentalists try to restrict by appealing to Paul's teaching on not giving offense are not anything close to that which would shake the roots of someone's faith to point where they are destroyed as a Christian.
On the contrary those who are most indoctrinated with many of "separatist" teachings (music, dress, etc.) are very securely locked into their positions to start with. They will consider themselves as having a higher level of discernment and therefore more mature. To be asked to be treated as weak Christians is disingenuous at best and a smokescreen at worst.
Those who hold "separatist" ways weakly (through influence or pressure) can give them up without damage to their faith. This is my personal observation.
The above-mentioned author continues:
"I began to understand that if I were constantly wondering if I were offending someone with my freedom, it wouldn't be Christ's freedom at all. It would be a twisted form of bondage to the opinions of others. I would be like the Galatians who turned away from freedom (grace) to a set of rules so as not to offend anyone."
He is referring to Gal 2 where Peter(Cephas) and Barnabas lined up with the Judaizers to avoid offense. Paul was not happy about this at all, but stood up to them in the face! The Judaizers not only taught works for salvation but works for sanctification (Gal 3:3).
The teachers of external separation bear more of a relation to the Judaizers of Gal 2 rather than the weak brethren of I Cor 8. Whereas the weak brethren of I Cor 8 had no wider agenda, the Judaizers were confrontational in their attacks. Whereas the weak brethren did not seek to make others feel as they did, the Judaizers continually sought to get Christians to follow their rules.
In churches that are "separatist"(external) we are often replaying the classic tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes". Joe Six-pack turns off his rock music 5 min from church. Jane Doe switches into dresses before every service. Few people care about the "rules" but everyone thinks everyone else does. As we continue to perpetuate this situation on the back of "don't offend", our children note the hypocrisy and take off.
The few people who really believe in all these "standards" would not be destroyed, they would find another church that believes like them, because they couldn't stand a church that didn't.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
It is often said that we should avoid doing certain things because we are not supposed to offend other Christians. Certainly in I Cor 10:32 we are told to give no offense to anyone:
"Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,"
Using v.13, it is taught that we should never exercise our liberty:
"Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble."
In I Cor 8 the discussion concerns the eating of meat offered to idols. Some in the early church had a problem with its association with the pagan gods:
1Co 8:1 ESV Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.
Paul establishes that the fact that the meat was offered to idols means nothing because there is only one God:
1Co 8:4 ESV Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one."
But not all Christians understood this:
1Co 8:7 ESV However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
This verse holds a key to understanding what kind of offense Paul is speaking of here. The Christians who were offended at this meat (v.7 "some") had "former association with idols" and therefore all too clearly felt that it was real. In other words, these Christians were converted from the Paganism of the day and so they could not get past the association, having spent so much time in the worship of false gods.
This is why verse 9 tells us that our liberty can be a stumbling block to them. Verse 10 explains how this happens:
1Co 8:10 ESV For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
What is important to point out here, is that the eating of this meat is not wrong. To clarify Paul's argument, if the idol were in fact real, yes, it would be wrong to eat the meat. Therefore, because the weaker Christian believes the idol is real, it is wrong for him to eat the meat, even though the reality is not so.
If the weaker Christian were to eat this meat, he could fall back into Paganism:
1Co 8:11 ESV And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
How is this? The weak believes the idol is real in some way- and if the eating of meat offered to a real idol is OK, then this creates an irreconcilable conflict with the idea that Christ alone is worthy of our worship.
It is because of this danger that Paul says he will never eat meat:
1Co 8:13 ESV Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Paul speaks more of the topic in chapter 10, starting in verse 16:
1Co 10:16-18 ESV The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (17) Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (18) Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
Concerning the relationship of sacred food to the Lord, it is noted that our partaking of the food, be it Lord's Supper, or in the OT, the sacrifices, we also partake of the Lord. This is an interesting parallel that I think deserves some study, in regard to the Lord's Supper.
1Co 10:19-20 ESV What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? (20) No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
In verse 19 Paul anticipates the inevitable question, concerning whether idols, and the food offered to them actually do mean something. Paul's answer in verse 20 is "no", consistent with his earlier statements in chapter 8.
The rest of verse 20 seems to present a contradiction with chapter 8, to claim that meats offered to idols are in fact wrong. Paul here acknowledges that while the pagan gods do not exist, the powers they reverence are actually demonic. In other words, the pagans feel they are worshipping gods, but they are actually following demons. The parallel that Paul sets up between v.20 and vs.16-18 tell us that when Paul says that we should not be participants with demons, then we should not partake of the food offered to them.
All of this is following the command in v.14 to flee idolatry.
So what do we make of the apparent contradiction between I Cor 10:20, which tells us not to participate with demons in eating idol meat, and I Cor 8:4 and 10:19-20a, which indicate that there is actually nothing to the idol or the meat to make it wrong?
The key is found in Paul's command on how to deal with meats:
1Co 10:27-29 ESV If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. (28) But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-- (29) I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?
First it is to be noted that this scenario involves a believer partaking of a meal in the presence of an unbeliever (v.27). We are told not to ask about the meat, but to go ahead and eat. The setting implies that the "someone" of v.28 is likely an unbeliever as well, making a comment about the status of the meat. Paul tells us in this case to not eat, because our eating could then be seen as participation in idolatry, and give the unbeliever a chance to bring accusation against the church. (v.25 is the same thought, such as unbelievers would be sellers at the market.)
Chapter 10 is telling us then, that in a setting where an unbeliever could take our actions as participation with pagan worship, we should not eat idol meat. This is complimentary with chapter 8, which tells us the same thing, but in the case of a believer.
Because the idol is nothing, and the idol meat is nothing, the Christian has nothing to fear. However, the Christian must not cause other believers to stumble or give unbelievers a reason to reproach. If the Christian can be sure he is doing neither, then he can partake.
This appears to be the conclusion of Paul as evidenced in vs.29-33. The open teaching against eating meats offered to idols (Acts 15:29; 21:25) served to facilitate the church's testimony in that culture, rather than create a binding law for all Christians throughout the centuries. (These same verses also teach against eating strangled animals but this is the method of death used in many chicken farms today.)
When Paul says he will not eat meat, he is referring to those times in which it would offend.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Time to comment on Sunday night's message. The preacher put three men in a row, had them connect, then had the line flex. In this way, it is said that the people are able to do the work of the church- each member receives what it needs from another and is flexible.
Paul's picture of a Christian body is set in context of dealing with members of the church who press issues concerning areas in which the Christian has the freedom to choose:
Col 2:18 ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
Of whom Paul goes on to say that this person is not holding fast to the "Head" (Christ) from whence the body grows. In other words, the person who makes much ado about external regulations is not seeking their security and growth from Christ, the Head. These people find their security from keeping rules- which, by the way, do nothing to actually restrain the carnal nature- v.18 tells us of their "sensuous mind" ("fleshly mind" KJV) and v.20 tells us that, in any case, they do nothing as far as "stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (v.23; "not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" KJV).
Verses 20 to 22 tell us about how "external rules" are different from living in Christ:
Col 2:20-22 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- (21) "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings?
Verse 22 says that the "regulations" ("ordinances" KJV) are based in "human precepts and teachings". Why is this? Verse 20 reveals that not only did we, in Christ, die to sin, we also died to this world's idea of goodness. The sin of this present world, as well as imitation righteousness, are done away with in Christ.
Verse 23 admits that the regulations look good, but are of no value:
Col 2:23 ESV These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
This agrees with Php 2:13 which pin-points the power of the Christian as the "God who works in you".
Returning to v.19, then, the "holding fast to the Head" is a matter of the Christian finding their power, identity, and security in Christ alone, and not in the keeping of external rules or in the opinions of others. This verse goes on to say that it is from this identity with the Head that the body "grows with a growth that is from God."
This agrees with John 15 where Christ promises that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.
One final implication of this context concerns the identity of the body of Christ. If there is one Head, "from whom the whole body...grows", then the body is all saved Christians on earth. The body spoken of here is not the local church.
Paul does not restrict the scope of the body in v.19. The parenthetical statement of this verse clarifies Paul's concept of the body: "nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments."
The people are not the "joints" and "ligaments". The people are joined by "joints" and "ligaments". The joints and ligaments are more than likely Christian love ("charity" KJV):
Col 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So then Christians worldwide "the whole body" are to come together "knit together" and help each other "nourished" through love/charity "joints"/"ligaments".
This type of knitting and nourishing occurs with a local church assembly but this passage transcends the modern idea of a local church entirely. It is important to apply this in a broader sense, and not restrict this to a local assembly. It is important to open ourselves to Christians wherever they are. As we do this, the growth will be natural and not forced ("growth that is from God" [v.19] who "gives the growth" [I Cor 3:7]), but it won't necessarily be in one local church assembly, as the growth involves the entire body.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
While "door-knocking" today I wondered what we might do if every place began to say "no soliciting," or "no leafleting," or "no handbills".
What would we do? How would we accomplish the Great Commission? Of course, common sense says quite simply, that door knocking and the Great Commission are not one in the same.
Certainly in the fervor that many churches encourage their people to go "soul winning," which is in the majority of the cases door-knocking, may leave some scratching their heads as to exactly how the church would promote witnessing if door-knocking (for whatever reason) was no longer possible.
It causes us to ask ourselves to basic questions. First, what is the responsibility of the average Christian in witnessing? Secondly, what methods does God approve or even mandate for getting his gospel out?
God has chosen the "foolishness" of preaching (I Cor 1:18, Rom 10:14) for this task. God has chosen to use men to do his work in this regard. The Christian cannot sit back and do nothing- for the gospel has been committed to every Christian by which Christ endeavors to reconcile the world unto Himself (II Cor 5:19).
We have not yet even mentioned the so-called "Great Commission," possibly the most quoted verses on this topic:
Mat 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
It could be said that the Great Commission only applied to the apostles (Act 10:42). But I will not say that, in light of verses that we have already seen in I/II Corinthians and Romans. In addition, all Christians are "disciples" though they are not apostles; and verse 20 indicates that if the apostles are to teach the disciples to teach more disciples what they have been taught, then certainly the teaching of the Great Commission is intended to apply to all Christians as disciples.
It is self-evident that to teach the gospel requires communication of some form, and that requires taking initiative in approaching non-Christians. So our first question can be answered that God has indeed entrusted us with the message of the gospel and expects us to communicate that gospel to the world.
As to the methods we should use to communicate that gospel to the world, we have to ask if the Bible specifically commands a particular method or if there is a pattern established in the NT of what the early church did; and if we find patterns, are they binding or useful to us today?
The first verse out of the hat for many I know, is Acts 20:20:
Act 20:20 ESV how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,
Of course, this verse is used to back up door knocking as a scriptural principle, but does it say that? One key element is who Paul is teaching from house to house:
Act 20:17 ESV Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.
It should be plain enough by now that Bible is not speaking of what we think of as door knocking or canvassing. What the Bible is speaking of is early church's method of meeting in homes, but this is another topic entirely!
Another verse is used to indicate a method by which the gospel should be given:
Luk 14:23 ESV And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
By this verse it is preached that we ought to be on the streets stopping people with the gospel, but is Christ trying to teach?
In this parable of the wedding feast, certainly Christ's bride, the church, is view. (The realization that the parable refers to such a grand theme should make us pause in attempting super-literal application.) Since the church is composed of the saved (Acts 2:47) the remaining question is to be asked what people are those that are invited beforehand, and who are those in the highways and hedges.
Christ came, not for the Gentiles, but for the Jews (Mat 15:24). The rejection of the invited guests is a picture of the Jews rejection of Christ (Mat 23:37) and the command to go into the highways and hedges is representative of Christ giving the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11). Certainly Luke 14:23 has nothing to do with how a Christian should communicate the gospel.
Some ways the gospel preached in the NT:
1. In the synagogues (Act 6:9)
2. The temple at Jerusalem (Mat 26:55)
3. In forums of public discussion/debate (Mars Hill, Acts 17)
4. Privately to those of high station (Gal 2:2)
5. On request (Act 10:33)
So we see many different ways, and there are possibly more, that the gospel was preached in the first century. What is evident is that the early church spoke when they could, when there was an opening. Different societies and cultures provide different venues through which a Christian may express the gospel. The gospel today is available by Internet, TV, radio, and telephone hotlines...
It seems evident that instead of locking us into certain methods, the Bible gives us a picture of Christians adjusting and taking advantage of the dynamics of the society and culture they were in.
One serious danger in being particular about methods is missing new methods entirely. It is in this way that more traditional churches often lose their influence. Certainly if a method requires a person to commit sin, then it shouldn't be used; but many methods called sinful are open to debate as to whether they are sinful or not.
On last consideration is this: that "preaching" is often taken to exclusively refer to speech. It is in this way, for example, that the use of music is said to be not appropriate for spreading the gospel. To begin with, the word "preach" means to proclaim, or make known, and does not by definition exclusively refer to speech. Secondly, it is important to point out that the Bible directly calls for Christian music to reach the lost- church services are to be conducted in such a manner that challenges the unsaved:
1Co 14:23-26 ESV If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (24) But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, (25) the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (26) What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Verse 26 is specific- all things are to be done to build the saints, or edify, because this will also convince the unbeliever. Hymns are part of this.
Satan would love to restrict our methods for getting the gospel out. As we have seen, he does it by appealing to a Christian's sense of piety (causing pride in holiness). Satan also restricts our methods by means of pragmatism, or by judging methods in terms of what "works".
It is evident that although Jesus was sent to Israel, they did not receive Him (Jhn 1:11). According to some teachers today, he was a failure- but most vertainly Jesus was not a failure. Stories are told of missionaries toiling for years with little fruit. Yet the efforts of these missionaries, like Christ's efforts, were vitally important as we see the fruits come later. Some sow the seed, some water, some reap. We are not responsible for results, we are merely responsible to get out the message in any way we can:
1Co 3:7 ESV So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
In conclusion, we should be creative in thinking of new ways to spread the gospel. No one way is THE right way. Just do it! ..and leave the results to God.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Oftentimes, we look at circumstances and grow anxious and depressed. In short, we lose faith. We lose sight of the promises. We question whether He cares.
Jesus Christ suffered as a man, yet did not sin (Heb 4:15). This verse tells us he was touched with the same weaknesses and problems that we are. Jesus Christ can relate to what we are going through, and cares.
We are supposed to live by faith, not by sight (II Cor 5:7). It is obvious that circumstances are the things we see, and as we focus on the circumstances we see we are in fact take our focus away from God, the object of our faith. The evidence of this is when we come to the point of wondering where he is, or whether we cares- we have in essence forgot what it is like to look at God.
Sometimes the future is downright scary and you don't know what you can do... in these times you have to keep looking up to Him.
What does it mean to look up to God in faith as you go through life? First of all, it is realizing that Christ was a man once, and He understands. Then, it means regular prayer- casting all your care upon Him (I Pet 5:7), committing your problems to the Lord. We also have to remember that His ways are often unable to understood by us (Isa 55:9) but he is still working in us and for us (Phl 1:6).
He will give peace, and of course, provide for your need. In the meantime, you enjoy the view of the Lord instead of looking at your circumstances!
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
To court or not to court? Or should we date? What is the relationship between friendship, dating, courtship, and marriage? Some act as if all interaction with an unrelated member of the opposite gender is tantamount to dating. Surely that is the extreme end, I would hope. However, if I recall my high school days at the church school, and to even see Joe and Jane speaking privately meant something was going on. It quickly got passed around that they were in l-o-o-o-ve. Of course this was high schooler behavior and some would argue that those who are still in high school shouldn't even think about dating yet.
However this brings me to my point- that people confuse friendship and dating and courtship and marriage, and in doing so negatively effect the development of a proper perspective of the opposite gender. Must the only friends of the opposite gender I can be anything more than an acquaintance with be a marriage prospect? This seems to be the opinion of many who take this logic to it's conclusion and say that married men, for example, should keep away from friendships with other women.
The answer is for God's people to see a difference between friendship and courtship, for relationships between the genders to be more natural, rather than as an inevitable step toward marriage. Single men and women who heed the Bible command to guard the heart should be OK, along with the fact that, well, they have a number of friends. No dating, just a good circle of friends. People need to stop assuming the nature of other people's friendships.
It might be said that a friendship that is close enough to tell if the other is the right one is too close. The answer to this shows us where courtship fits in. Courtship fits in where a man and woman take the relationship farther than normal for the purpose of seriously considering marriage. For a Christian man or woman this step involves specific prayer and yes, counsel.
There is a fine line perhaps but if a Christian is walking after the Spirit, so what? It is a fine line crossed only with prayer. If a Christian is not walking after the Spirit, there are greater problems.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
To take off from yesterday, as God gave us a body to glorify Him with, He has given us a mind to glorify Him with. If physical laziness is a sin then so is laziness of mind. Yet Christians today want God's will spelled out for them.
But God is rarely so accommodating to our way of dealing with Him. In Romans 12 we are told to discern the will of God:
Rom 12:2 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.
First of all, our minds are renewed in Christ. Then, we take the mind of Christ and test our decisions by it. If the decision lines up with His mind, then we know the will of God. We have discerned it.
The will of God is a matter of both general and specific revealing. Generally, His will is found in the Scriptures. Specifically, it is shown as we make choices that line up with the Scriptures.
We see then that the will of God is not a planned route so much as it is a guideline. Paul tells us that whatever we do is to be to the glory of God. Jesus said that the prime commandment is to love God with all your heart. So our love toward God and the resulting glory we give Him are the most important things about our Christian existance. Everything else in life exists merely to cause us to give Him greater glory.
Paul showed no anxiety about what exactly he should do when he made preparation to go into Bithynia. Paul was confident that he had the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit stopped him and sent Him to Macedonia. For Paul, we find that direct intervention by God was considered to be the exception, rather than the rule.
We glorify God not by waiting for Him to spell out our every step but by asking for and applying the wisdom from above in a reasonable and honest way to the multiple-choice decisions we have in life. This is a component of liberty, I think.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Now this is interesting. I have to stop a moment here and wonder about why anyone would insist on using a nearly 400 yr old translation. In place of "open to reason" the KJV has "easy to be entreated". Seeing the modern English translation of this verse really helps answer a question that has been at my mind for a long time about understanding the spiritual things of God. The Greek word here is eupeithes, meaning "able to be persuaded".
The question is whether God's wisdom is in opposition to reason or with it. It is the age old "juxtaposition" of faith and reason.
In I Cor we read that the natural man (unregenerate man) does not recieve the things of God, because they are discerned through God's Spirit. We read:
1Co 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
Human wisdom - wisdom from above - reason. Christians have paired human wisdom with reason for many years. Yet the Bible compares wisdom from above with reason. I acknowledge that both types of wisdom are tied to reason. So what is the difference?
It is the same difference between the atheist and the theist. The one reasons in a negative way, that only allows for what is seen and negates the value of what has not been proven. The other reasons in a positive way, that places value in that which has not been proven. Productive science to me is one that dares to imagine, and thinks positively. Inventions are born of thinking that allows for what is not apparent.
(I do not intend to say that an atheist cannot invent, but certainly his method of reasoning toward God is not amenable to invention, should he apply it in a broader sense. But the positive force in the atheist is that of humanism. He speaks out one side of the mouth in disproving God, and out the other in exalting the human condition.)
Does a verse come to mind? How about Hebrews 11:1?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
And this answers the question. Faith in God undergirds Christian reasoning. Skepticism toward God is behind atheistic reasoning. And further, Christian faith is founded upon His revealed will in the Bible.
So then the wisdom from above is tied to Christian reasoning that is rooted in faith in God as He is revealed to man through His prophets and apostles.
Human wisdom is tied to humanistic reasoning that ignores God and places man and his ideas at the center.
Many Christians imagine a faith in which rules of logic do not apply. But this is not God-honoring faith. So long as the Bible is handled consistently James 3:17 teaches us that we should be open to reason that might contradict our long held opinion or doctrine. Appealing to a mystical notion of disconnected unreasoned spiritual ideas is not an option. In fact, such a notion is responsible for the type of doctrine and thinking that dishonor God and His word.
Other verses emphasize the role of reason in faith and doctrine as well:
1Pe 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, (15) but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (16) yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Many who debate doctrine in the name of orthodoxy are guilty of violating verse 16.
2Ti 2:24-26 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (26) and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Wisdom from above... is open to reason. It must be. The Spirit convicts but we have a duty to stand for the plain truths of the Scripture.
Friday, February 27, 2004
The Passion is not patently un-Biblical, neither is it inherantly Catholic, nor is it anti-Semetic. People have read their biases into the film and condemned it accordingly.
BTW, I saw it and was glad I saw it. It was not as shocking as I had thought, but it was definately intense. There were a few extra-Biblical scenes put in and Mary got alot of screen time but these mostly served to fill out the story, although I suppose I could have done without the Satan guy.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Regardless of the answer, go see the Passion at your local theater starting this Wednesday. I've got my tickets for Thursday night.
Normally, I am not too inclined to be caught up with the latest fad. But I feel like this is going to be a good thing. I know it is gruesome. But I want to be moved... I want to be shaken back to a real true appreciation of what Jesus did for me. If this movie can jolt me, I want it!
If you are not a Christian, then be prepared to see what God Himself suffered on behalf of all mankind. Including you. His hand is outstretched to you always for you to take it.
I have read enough previews to be comfortable recommending the movie.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
It seems that I am so often wrong, and yet I do try to be right. It's just that there are so many rules I cannot remember them all. Internet bad - LBT site good. Theatres bad, hoop earrings bad, button front skirts bad, movie rentals bad, TV bad, Andy Griffith good, Carol Burnett bad, eye makeup bad, Contemp. Christian music, bad, Patch the Pirate some good some bad, golfing good, football good, The Baptist good, Sword of the Lord bad, musical rhythm bad, sliding when singing bad, stoically singing with elbow in the air good, Bill Burr good, David Gibb bad, Dennis Corle was good - now bad, give it alls good, not paying your bills bad, LCA good, homeschooling bad (unless you are missionary and dont have any other choice then you just do the best you can, but dont expect much), working all weekend on busroutes and your job good, falling asleep in church very bad, hard preaching good, mean spirit bad, talking unkindly to staff very bad, Mrs. Ayres talking unkindly to staff good, submissive wives good, following one's husband away from LBT bad, posting on FFF bad, lurking on FFF good, inviting Dr Gray to speak good, trying to buy the tickets yourself to save money bad, character good, fatigue bad, questioning the preacher bad, having an opinion bad, not subscribing to the Baptist bad, making decisions bad, getting all your direction from "Preacher" good, hating your brother bad, cheering the "Preacher" on while your brother gets ripped to shreds and humiliated very good, immodesty bad, men with no shirts on bad, boxing good, churches using worldly methods to draw a crowd very bad, having "Preacher" escorted to the platform by dark shade wearing teen boys while an auditorium full of people stand to their feet in a rousing ovation good.
Now we know how the religious leaders in Israel prior to Christ came up with the Talmud.